Keyboard Preservationists

What did you think of when you read the title, “Keyboard Preservationists”? Does it sound descriptive or enigmatic? Maybe both?

In last week’s post, “Hey Buffalo, Wish I Were There,” I mentioned that the National Trust seems to be friendlier to young preservationists than when I was in college. However, since I’m no longer in college, my opinion could be skewed. Following that post, reader Mark left a comment that included this:

Today I see a proliferation of young people getting involved in preservation and I see an explosion stuff on the internet relating to built heritage and preservation. The young´ens seem to be taking to the net to show their enthusiasm and involvement, which is great because they´re getting the message out. All of this poses another question though: do we have too many keyboard preservationists, and not enough people with hammers in their hands?

The term – a new one to me – “keyboard preservationists” immediately grabbed my attention. In other words, do we have too many people talking preservation related topics and not enough doing on the ground work? Or do we have too many doing the softer side of preservation and not the actual craftsman related trades to preservation. I’m not sure which question Mark meant; our conversation continues in the comments. For the sake of discussion, let’s assume the first.

Initially, “keyboard preservationist” implies the younger crowd – those with blogs, Twitter accounts, Facebook pages, Linked-In, etc.; however, we all know that more than just the younger generation of preservationists is enamored by (or addicted to) the digital age.  While the majority are likely the younger crowd, let’s not assume that is the case.

Now, let’s consider “keyboard preservationists” in the sense that there is too much talk. Are you talking the talk, but not walking the walk? Do you live as a preservationist? Everyone has different priorities and theories about preservation, but for what you believe in and attempt to teach others, do you follow your own advice and knowledge? As an example, if you encourage local shopping and community involvement, do you shop at locally owned businesses and partake in town events? Do you attend zoning meetings or design review board meetings? Or do you bypass the smaller stores and head to the big box stores and elsewhere, and hear about development plans after the fact.

Do you read the preservation news and sign the petitions to protect preservation funding and show support for buildings at risk? Or do you glance over it and only pass it on, or not? Do you live in a new house rather than an old or historic house?

No one is perfect, preservationist or not. I’m not saying my preservation life is a perfect example, either. But, if we all have compromises that we make and rationalizations that we tell ourselves, perhaps it is time to reevaluate. Can we put in that extra effort to change our shopping patterns? Can we be more involved in the development and events of town planning, etc?  Can we contact lawmakers to make a difference? Can we talk to our fellow citizens and explain preservation?

Our talk needs to happen beyond the internet. Face to face explanation about historic preservation is the best form of advocacy. Our examples and our lives should be reflections of what we speak and believe about preservation. This seems like an appropriate time to recall my favorite inspirational quote by Margaret Mead:

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed citizens can change the world. Indeed it is the only thing that ever has.”

So, what do you think? Do you ever find yourself a “keyboard preservationist”? Let’s share some faults and advice – leave a comment or send me an email and I’ll post them if I have enough. Think it over and send it along. (I’ll leave you anonymous if you’re too shy!) I’ll share some of my own as well.