Why do old places matter?

“As I settle in a place, the place settles me.” Juhani Pallasmma, Forum Journal (Spring 2015)

00_29.3Cover_smallMore than fifteen months ago, my colleague at the National Trust for Historic Preservation, Tom Mayes, embarked on a journey. For six months, he lived at the American Academy in Rome researching and thinking about one of the most central tenets of our profession: Why Do Old Places Matter? He wanted to tease out the reasons both easy to grasp and far reaching in order to allow preservationists to create a more complete picture of why we work to save places. In those fifteen months, I feel as if I’ve traveled alongside him, literally as part of my work at the National Trust, and intellectually in trying to answer and embrace the question in my own way.

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Building the public trust: Preservation’s middle age?

Editor’s note: This post continues a series commemorating the anniversary of the National Historic Preservation Act by examining a past article published in The Public Historian, describing its significance and relating it to contemporary conversations in historic preservation.

Brucemore in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, was bequeathed to the National Trust for Historic Preservation in 1981. Photo credit: Wikipedia

When Madeline Cirrillo Archer published “Where We Stand: Preservation Issues in the 1990s,” she sought to assess the challenges facing a movement that was a quarter-century old. In 1991, historic preservation was soon to be an interest of mine. Now, as the Director for Programs and Publications at the National Trust for Historic Preservation, revisiting this article and the period it chronicled has been an opportunity for me to see if the principles and thinking that drew me to the field and were the basis of my introduction to historic preservation still held true. Would the ideas and ideals still resonate with me (and others) today, 25 years later? How does preservation’s maturity compare to its “young adulthood?” Where do we, in fact, stand as compared to Archer’s predictions? Continue reading