Normally I shorten “historic preservation” to “preservation,” and I’m not sure when this habit began; perhaps, it was a result of not having enough time to study for, let alone pronounce my major. Two other reasons: 1. to make “historic preservation” more people friendly and accepted by the masses or 2. Anyone who is a historic preservationist understands what I mean when I say preservation.
By making something more people friendly, I don’t mean bending the rules to appease the naysayer; rather, just offering accessibility to the field. That is one reason why, to me, historic preservation can be defined by the term “quality of life.” The term will have a different definition to every single person who answers, but the general idea is that quality of life isn’t uniform and that’s what makes it important. Rural dwellers as opposed to city folks will value divergent aspects of their environment, yet the roots do converge. What do people like about their environment? What intangible aspects distinguish that area from another area?
Perhaps it is the appearance (i.e. architecture, landscape, combined restoration and planning) or the culture (i.e. folk traditions and new traditions / museums at work) or the sense of belonging and the history (i.e. historical, archaeological research at work presented to the public). Every aspect of historic preservation complements the others, which in turn provide citizens with a place that they love and respect, thereby improving their quality of life. If they were to take away even one of the aforementioned aspects, for example, the appearance, then the affect would change. Without appealing sites and gathering spaces, it takes away respect for the built environment and subsequently the historical environment.
Being a preservationist is an uphill battle, one that we have all willingly and knowingly dedicated ourselves to conquering. Our best bet to reaching the public is to continue to do what we’re doing, but to present it in less daunting terms. If we lived in Utopia, everyone would eventually see the light, but we need to concentrate on teaching people how to preservation friends, one by one. Intelligence doesn’t have anything to do with an audience being familiar with preservation; even the smartest college graduates need an introduction to historic preservation.
For all of these reasons, the connectivity and the accessibility, that is why, “quality of life” fits historic preservation. I believe it has the greatest potential engage interest in our field.
3 thoughts on “Accessibility to Historic Preservation”
I also drop the H from HP most of the time. For me, it’s because I don’t think the term adequately describes everything that we’re trying to accomplish. HP isn’t just preserving history, it’s understanding and nurturing the identity of a community, encouraging compatible development, promoting healthy places to live/work, etc. Unfortunately, I haven’t come up with a catchier phrase that conveys everything that a “Historic Preservationist” does.
I completely agree; your description is perfect: succinct and to the point. I love it! I assume you work in the preservation field? What do you do?
My email address is “firstname.lastname@example.org” because that pretty much sums it up. And you’re right, it’s not just about “saving the past”. It’s about preserving a “sense of place”. When I drive around the Bay Area, there are places I haven’t seen since I first moved her (1994). These days, they are often unrecognizable to me. Annihilating beloved landmarks is not only stupid, it leaves people feeling lost, even in their own home towns.