Historic Preservation Quotes

Do you ever find yourself looking for a good, inspirational quote pertaining to historic preservation one that will offer extra motivation when necessary or easily offer an answer to why does historic preservation matter?  To my knowledge, no one has created one of those small gift books that you can find in stationery stores and drugstores.  Let me know when you find it. In the meantime, the South Carolina SHPO created a collection of such historic preservation quotes.  Some of the quotes paragraphs excerpted from classic texts, whereas other are short, sweet, and to the point.  Take a look, you’ll find one that you like. Click here for the pdf link.

Two quotes from the collection:

It has been said that, at its best, preservation engages the past in a conversation with the present over a mutual concern for the future.

William J. Murtagh, Keeping Time: The History and Theory of Preservation in America (New York: Sterling Publishing Co., Inc., 1988), p. 168.  

 The past is not the property of historians; it is a public possession. It belongs to anyone who is aware of it, and it grows by being shared. It sustains the whole society, which always needs the identity that only the past can give. In the Grapes of Wrath John Steinbeck pictures a group of Oklahoma farm wives loading their goods into an old truck for the long trip to California. They did not have many possessions, but there was not room for what they had.

“The women sat among the doomed things, turning them over and looking past them and back. This book. My father had it. He liked a book. Pilgrim’s Progress. Used to read it. Got his name in it. And his pipe—still smells rank. And this picture—an angel. I looked at that before the fust three come—didn’t seem to do much good. Think we could get this china dog in? Aunt Sadie brought it from the St. Louis fair. See? Wrote right on it. No, I guess not. Here’s a letter my brother wrote the day before he died. Here’s an old-time hat. These feathers—never got to use them. No, there isn’t room …. How can we live without our lives? How will we know it’s us without our past?”  (Steinbeck).

These are not members of a historical society. They had never seen a museum or a memorial. They were just people, asking a poignant and universal question: “How will we know it’s us without our past?” We do not choose between the past and the future; they are inseparable parts of the same river.

Dr. Walter Havighurst, Quoted by Carl Feiss in U.S. Conference of Mayors, With Heritage So Rich (New York: Random House, 1966), p. 1-2. 

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7 thoughts on “Historic Preservation Quotes

  1. I got a fortune in a fortune cookie once that read:

    “The best prophet of the future is the past.”

    While not clearly historic preservation related, it is peripheral to that which we find important about history. I taped it to my computer monitor at work. It gives me solace when I need it.

  2. Andrew – I like it! And I agree, it is definitely related to preservation when you think about it. It relates to the John Steinbeck quote above, and wondering how to get to the future without knowing the past. Both must be connected in order for everyone to succeed in harmony. Thanks for sharing! (I keep quotes taped to my monitor, too).

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