Saving History Saturday: Looking at the History of Preservation

Historic preservation is the practice of thinking through how to manage historic resources, and can include things like cemeteries, whole neighborhoods, farms or infrastructure. It encompasses the creation of places like historic house museums that are open to the public, but it also includes places like private homes for individuals who want to keep the historic character of their residence, or business owners who might want to inhabit a historic building, but want to also make use of it through adaptive reuse.

That’s how one of Smithsonian Magazine’s latest articles defines the subject in an interview with Whitney Martinko about her forthcoming book which looks at how 19th Century American viewed historic preservation.

In the Civil War community, we usually think of historic preservation as saving places from the 1860’s and focus on the battlefield preservation movement of the late 20th Century. However, it’s fascinating to learn that the people who lived during the Civil War era were interested in preserving places that they already viewed as historic from the earlier decades of the nation’s history. Martinko cites prominent examples at Mount Vernon and John Hancock’s home in Boston in part of her discussion.

As we thinking about preserving places of the past, don’t forget that their is already a long and successful “history of saving history.” This new article highlights that angle and offers much to consider: How Historic Preservation Shaped The Early United States (Smithsonian Magazine, Online)

3 Responses to Saving History Saturday: Looking at the History of Preservation

  1. Not to mention how preserving an area for one aspect ends up preserving it for another as well. Example: The Indian Temple Mound in Fort Walton Beach, Florida, was preserved for its Native American heritage, but it was discovered later that the same mound was utilized as a a natural cover for the Walton Guards encampment in 1861 before they were absorbed into the 1st Florida Infantry. Even had a few skirmishes around there. If the land hadn’t been preserved for its much earlier history, its Civil War significance would have been lost.

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