Heard in a Gilmore Girls Episode

Have you heard?! Gilmore Girls is coming back for a revival season – an 8th season. I’m so excited that I can barely contain myself. It’ll be a mini season (about 4 episodes), but it’s better than nothing. Here’s a fun fact for you: the show started in 2000, and at the time I was the same age (15) as Rory Gilmore (the daughter). Almost 16 years later, I’m still watching the show. But now, when I watch season one, I’m almost as old as Lorelai (the mother, who was 32 when the show started). HAAAA. Whatever, I’ll love Gilmore Girls forever and ever.

dragonfly inn

Lorelai and Rory dreaming about The Dragonfly Inn in Season 1. Source: http://gilmoregirls.wikia.com/wiki/Dragonfly_Inn

While re-watching a Season 4 episode (“Chicken or Beef?“), I noticed a perfect preservation line to go along with Preservation Month and #thisplacematters. Lorelai and Sookie are standing on the porch of the Dragonfly Inn, taking it all in before restoration commences. Lorelai says to Sookie:

Just sometimes, it hits me. This place had a long history before us, has a long future after us. I keep thinking it’s apart of our lives, but, really, it’s the reverse. For a little while. . .I don’t know. . .it’s like we’re apart of its life.

And that is why preservation is important. Happy Preservation Month!

p.s. Join the UVM Historic Preservation Alumni Association for a behind scenes tour of a local rehabilitation project.

Preservation Music Video: The National Register Rap

Somehow I missed this floating through the waves of the internet in recent weeks, but it is still worth sharing. And if you haven’t seen it, make sure you check it out.

The current HISP405 students in the Historic Preservation Program at the University of Mary Washington composed and created a music video for their final project. Their professor, Andi Smith (a fellow UVM HP alum), shared the project on her blog. Andi writes this:

It’s no secret that HISP405, the preservation capstone course, is a beast. We cover Cultural Resource Surveys, preservation planning issues, and then top it all off with theNational Register. To lighten the mood a little after what is always a very tough semester, I encourage students to make their final presentation a humorous one. They get points for content, of course, but also for making me and their classmates laugh. In past years, I’ve had pretty much everything: gameshows, poems, fairy tales, props, costumes, accents, you name it. Videos, too. One particular video made it big (or at least big for preservation) on the internet yesterday. Here it is:

Awesome job, Mary Washington. You guys are on to something! You make me proud. And thank you for including Prof. Gary Stanton. Made my day! (If you know of other preservation music videos in existence, please share.)

Preservation in Pop Culture

I know I am late in the game here. Humor me, please. There are few television shows that I watch, and those few are the shows to which I am addicted: Gilmore Girls and Scrubs. My love for Gilmore Girls is thoroughly documented, whereas my love of Scrubs is just a new fun fact. Anyway, within the past few months, Vinny and I have finally started watching Mad Men. (Actually, we already watched all 4 seasons. I don’t joke about addictions.) I love Mad Men for the writing, the outfits, the decor, the continuous references to actual happenings in society, the insight into the advertising world and the sheer shock I feel during every episode. I am constantly grateful for the fact that I did not grow up or live until the 1980s and beyond.

Season 3 begins in early 1963; in Episode 2, “Love Among the Ruins,” the infamous Penn Station (yes, that Penn Station) makes an appearance. It’s not a large role, but I loved that a relevant preservation topic was discussed as a background current event to the show. Great job, Mad Men! In brief: Pete Campbell brings in clients who are in favor of razing Penn Station to replace it with an arena. Paul Kinsie sides with the protestors, in agreement with the architectural merit of the Station. Not much else happens in the episode with Penn Station until, Lane Pryce tells Don Draper the HQ (in London) wants the Madison Square Garden account dropped. Don disagrees, believing that it opens the door for the World’s Fair and future Madison Square Garden business. He clearly believes it is progress and the best thing for New York City. He states, “New York City is in decay.” There is no conclusion to this segment – it’s never mentioned again.

Okay, so the lack of follow through was disappointing. I would have loved to have seen Mad Men’s take on the actual Penn Station case. But, it was still exciting to see in such a popular television show. Check out the behind the scenes clip. (Now that I discovered the behind the scenes clips, I’ve probably ruined my productivity after dinner. Great.)

Jane Jacobs and Philip Johnson in front of the old Penn Station in 1963. Life Image/Getty Images. Click for source.

For those who are unfamiliar with the Penn Station case, the easiest explanation is that supporters of the building lost. It was demolished, and the preservation movement grew in greater force and importance. The blog post, “Lead Us Not into Penn Station” by Ed Driscoll offers a good summary of the Penn Station context.  Here is a Penn Station summary from the New York Preservation Archive Project.

East Facade, Penn Station. Library of Congress HABS. Click for source.

Library of Congress HABS collection - Penn Station, Concourse from SE. Click for source.

Penn Station Concourse. Library of Congress, HABS.

You can check out the full collection of HABS Pennsylvania Station photographs at Library of Congress – click here. I think it is time for me to read Preserving New York: Winning the Right to Protect a City’s Landmarks by Anthony C. Wood. In the meantime, I’m still psyched about the mention in Mad Men (as were my fellow preservationists around here, who have also just started watching). If you haven’t started watching yet, you should.

Mickey Mouse

Pop culture, academic or just for fun?

Or like most everything, does it depend on the context? And for the purpose of mass education, does it truly matter how academic a subject is portrayed, as long as the viewers/readers/listeners, of all ages, are learning? Pop culture is often considered the more “fun” subject, possibly because more people are familiar and therefore open to say, the hula hoops of the 1950s as opposed to pipe stems from the colonial era. Look at the Smithsonian exhibits.  Right now exhibits range from the Appalachian trail to transportation to electricity to instruments to illustrations to Julia Child’s kitchen to dresses of the First Ladies, and so much more. All of the exhibits, some ongoing, some temporary, give glimpses into the American past in more approachable ways than textbooks (for most people). Visuals, text, conversation, all of these can combine to offer a greater appreciation of American history. (Note: this is not to imply that the Smithsonian is not considered or should not be considered academic. It is meant to imply that subjects that seem “more fun” on the surface are just as educational and of academic, historical integrity. Discussions welcome.)

What does this have to do with Mickey Mouse?

Walt Disney, a brilliant cartoonist and a visionary, altered much of pop culture, everyday life, design, animation, and truly had a lasting impact on the country and the world. Walt Disney is part of our history. Walt Disney is “fun” history. Disneyland and Walt Disney World are standing testaments, albeit perhaps not exactly what Disney envisioned all along. Still, Disney World and Disneyland mean something to everyone. Cartoons, movies, family vacations, the ideal place to be, the happiest place on earth, romanticized nostalgia, everyone feels differently. Now, when discussing design and districts we sometimes compare a place to Disney World, however this often means it’s too neat and tidy and romanticized, not real.

Regardless of your feelings for Disneyland and World, it has captured the imaginations of many. Cartoons, live action movies, too, play a huge role in children’s games and adults’ memories. So, how about a Mickey Mouse museum? Where do all of those movie props, costumes, and other memorabilia go? Just as Disney has changed America, Disney has changed over time, even Mickey Mouse. An article in The New York Times, “Blowing the Pixie Dust off Disney’s Archives,” introduces readers to the Disney archives, where all of these magical elements of movies live, stored away carefully along with Walt Disney’s possessions and other things. For young and old alike, for all who love Disney, it would be quite the trip to see inside the archives.

Disney is hosting D23, an exposition featuring a fair portion of this memorabilia, however it is nothing permanent. Instead, Disney hopes to make it annual exposition, according to the New York Times. Disney lends objects to the Smithsonian and for research, but much remains unseen by the public. For some of these images, view the New York Times slideshow of Disney artifacts.

So, that’s not the museum. The museum is actually called the Walt Disney Family Museum. Located in San Fransisco, CA, it houses videos, sound, technology based exhibits, drawings of the first Mickey Mouse, and the history of the Disney Family. Visitors can attend lectures, participate in family programs, see many documentaries, and much more. See this New York Times slideshow for a sneak peek at the museum. After all, there is no reason why the study and viewing of Disney company memorabilia cannot offer incredibly insights to how America has changed since Walt Disney got his start in 1923. Attitudes about society, race, relations, entertainment, leisure, and the American family have all changed. Looking at Mickey Mouse can offer clues to our societal values. At the very least, the world is a much better place when people are continuously learning and opening their minds, deepening their knowledge, and making connections from one subject to another or from one person to another.

The museum opens October 1, 2009. Anyone going? Come back with a report!