Preservation Inspiration

After lazy, warm summer days, getting back into the swing of school or a more demanding pace of professional work can seem daunting. Even for those who see preservation as a lifestyle – much more than just a job – the more relaxed feeling of summer is hard to bid adieu. Hopefully you’ve all adjusted to your new school schedules and are excited for the work September brings, in the classroom or the office. In any case, a little inspiration can go a long way, yes?

This leads to me ask: What inspires you? What gets you excited for your schoolwork, your job, your volunteer activities? What reminds you that historic preservation is a field meant for you (or any field, if you work in another)?

Do you have a favorite quote? Maybe hearing success stories inspires you to keep going and keep believing in preservation. Or is the start of a new school with everyone full excitement what gets your preservation zest going?

One of my favorite quotes is still 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.” I’ve seen this quote applied in many different scenarios, but to me it has always said that everyone and everything can make a difference. As preservationists, we care about our built environment and our quality of life in the past, present and future.

And, of course, a certain flock of flamingos provides plenty of inspiration, too. So what is your go-to inspiration? Care to share it in the comments? And while we’re talking a faster pace of work and more seriousness of work, do you have anything you’d like Preservation in Pink to discuss? What topics interest you in preservation?

City Hall in Montpelier, VT. It is also home of the Lost Nation Theater. A multi-use building with many historic details intact provides good preservation inspiration.

A Good Lesson

 “We have to have a viable option if we want to stay in the conversation.” – Michelle Michael

Section 106 work is never portrayed as the most glamorous aspect of historic preservation work. But it’s one of the most important aspects, especially if you work with federal property.  Michelle and I talked about Section 106 the other day, and while I’ve never been too fond of it (read: that type of work – it’s just not my cup of tea), she explained it to me in a way that allowed me understand why people do Section 106 and why they find it enjoyable.

I can now say that I understand this better than ever before: It is a compromise. It is figuring out how to convey historic buildings as an attractive first choice when it comes to renovation, rehabilitation, and development. Section 106 and architectural history and architecture, when combined, can figure out which materials will bring a building up to modern code without destroying historic materials, details, and features. It is a puzzle and critical thinking. It is shaping the future carefully with respect to the past. And, of course, it’s “green”.

I’m glad to have people like Michelle who do this sort of work and do it well, and tirelessly -and then still have the energy to teach me. As a side note, check out Michelle’s flickr page for gorgeous architectural photographs.

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. 

My Constant Inspiration

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

I read this quote at the San Diego Zoo last August. As cliche as this may sound, immediately I knew that it would be a permanent theme/mantra to follow in my life.  It echoes most of my favorite topics from at the very beginning to combining disciplines.  This quote actually appeared on an exhibit next to the gorillas at the zoo and it talked about recycling cell phones.  Yet, the wording is timeless.  I have not read anything by Margaret Mead.  In fact, I shamefully admit that I only know her as an anthropologist; but, I’d place a bet that she understood the connectivity of the world as well as the importance.  [Her readings are on my list.]  If you have ever received an email from me, you will see this quote on the bottom of it.  So far, I have not found a more appropriate quote with which to replace it.

In previous posts, I have discussed my own theories of interdisciplinary collaboration, so I will not belabor the issue.  But, I hope as we all meet different people we further understand the need for communication and the combination of even related fields like historic preservation, anthropology, archaeology, urban planning, business…practically any field. Even the various branches of historic preservation (folklore & oral  history, restoration, rehabilitation, museum studies) need to be more involved with each other than they currently are. 

We may all know that this is true, but do we really understand how to begin connecting with other fields?  I do not claim to have the answer, but perhaps we can develop one together.  The first step is understanding and valuing what other people are researching, accomplishing, and listening to ideas and goals.  This can be realized through education, conversation, and a general interest.  Someone out there: field the next step, please.

[If you are looking for a point in this post, it’s mostly to re-introduce this quote and remind each other about always keeping our minds open.]  Any other favorite quotes out there?