That two-headed calf…

There were numerous aspects of the second half of Historic Preservation that intrigued me and raised interesting questions. Aside from detailing the process of applying for designation on the National Register of Historic Places, chapter five raised the issue of ‘integrity’ and the issue of the recent past. As we discussed in class last week, the ‘integrity’ of a building includes the context in which it stands. As an archaeologist, I understand the importance of context. Artifacts without a context tell poor tales of the past. However, moving a building out of its original context should not immediately decrease the historic or cultural integrity of that building. The story of the building’s move may become integral to the overall story of the town and a new context may have evolved. I think the discussion around integrity and the process of designation emphasizes the idiosyncratic nature of historic preservation. Every building, district, landmark, etc. has a story to tell, if you do the research and care to listen.

Now for the recent past. I’ll admit, I audibly groaned when I read “DOCOMOMO”. As I mentioned in my previous post, I have little love for modern architecture. I have possibly less love for recent history as a subject of interest. However, I appreciate the need to preserve unique representations of architecture and places of recent historical importance. (Even if I do not appreciate their appearance.) As I mentioned above, every building has a story to tell and many modern buildings tell the story of American architectural history.

I enjoyed the discussion of the various types of intervention and the tools and technology for documenting and preserving buildings. This chapter was particularly poignant in light of our discussion on the possibility of gaining employment in historic preservation. I thought it would be extremely interesting to produce Historic Structure Reports. Not only do I find the process of researching and learning fascinating, but also these are the stories of the lives of buildings. It would seem that digital tools have made documenting buildings easier and more convenient. However, like all technology, there are limits and often getting out paper, pencil, and measuring tape will produce the best results.

One final issue was brought to my attention while reading chapter nine. I greatly enjoyed the discussion of the Main Street Program and the revitalization of historic downtowns. The discussion on historic theatres reminded me of the Wilma in Missoula and the Egyptian here in Boise. They are magnets for film festivals, music groups, and community events in both cities. My only problem with this chapter comes just before these great discussions. The authors state, “These core areas should not be seen as museums where time stands still but as organisms that continually evolve into new forms.” (p. 279). Did that bother anyone else? I hope that we are moving to a point where museums are not places where time stands still, but are also organisms that grow and evolve with their communities. How awful to have a book about historic preservation use museums as the source of their ‘what not to be’ example. Then I think about the two-headed calf and I die a little inside.

One thought on “That two-headed calf…”

  1. I agree with you on the moving buildings thing. Not only can the building move provide insight into a city’s growth, but also what the society at the time deemed important enough to save. Plus, moving a building often means more documentation & news reports about the building will be created, which will historians 100 years from now will be undoubtedly grateful for!

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