Good afternoon, Nation, and welcome to your better-late-than-never edition of the Preservation Round-Up, the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s twice-weekly digest of preservation news and notes from around the country.
Thanks to this hilarious video, Monday's round-up was all about self-reflection: Are we good communicators? It's an important question to consider since few issues or causes are as local leaning as historic preservation. So, when the rubber hits the road (i.e. the bulldozers are coming), are we good at explaining to folks why saving places matters?
As promised, here's a quick sampling of some of the responses we received via Facebook and Twitter.
First, Patrick Thrush got real about the truth -- and Americans' prime-time guilty pleasures:
Funny, but unfortunately all too true. Far too much boilerplate jargon in things, but if the funder does not see this sort of rubbish in the application things do not get funded. Public input indeed, as the fact is that most of these dog and pony shows merely meet a requirement for an agenda that was decided long before the first meeting was convened. And besides, if it boils down to a choice between such a meeting and staying home for the evening being entertained by American I'dull or Dancing With the Dolts, which is going to win out? Just saying...
Regarding jargon, the good folks over at the Lewes Historical Society agreed:
@HistoricLewes: @PresNation love the clip. its so true its scary. there's a time for jargon and there's a time to sit down and have a real conversation!
If you ask Anne Louro, people get preservation when they realize its all about shared heritage:
Planning is not a sexy subject and the language of urban and land-use planners is not only boring but often confusing, as aptly demonstrated by the self-deprecating planners depicted in the video. That being said, I believe that is not always the case with preservation planning. People may not understand “smart growth” and “comprehensive guide plans”, but they do understand what speaks to their collective memories and their shared heritage. Preservation planners have learned to communicate in a language that everyone understands and in a way in which people value and can identify how their cultural and built surroundings affect them.
Ask Amy Davis, and she'll tell you to brush up on your marketing (we all should!):
@amyarchivist: @PresNation If they aren't, they need to be! We have to do a lot of our own marketing & PR, so we have to be willing to speak up!
And finally, Reuben McKnight takes our question a bit further: Communication skills aside, do preservationists have a good image?
I think preservation at the local level has focused too much on prevention of bad things, and law and order, which was a very rational approach 20 years ago. But now, that negative political stigma hurts preservation efforts; people still use the word "takings" when they hear about historic designation, when the case law on this has been settled for 30+ years, and despite the fact that historic designation often is very similar to (or the same as) as a zoning change. But yet, the image persists that somehow preservation is exceptionally burdensome.
Agree? Disagree? Add to the conversation by dropping us a comment below. And with that, let's rocket through this week's preservation highlights.
First and foremost, an awesomely huge success story that I'm still happy dancing about: Walmart has decided to preserve (read: no supercenter!) Virginia's historic Wilderness Battlefield. The surprise announcement dropped early Wednesday morning and instantly made headlines all over the place. Check it out here and here and here and here and here. Beyond Orange County, news of Walmart's withdrawal also got folks thinking about stores planned for their neck of the woods. Quite simply, it was a great day for preservation. Just ask National Trust President Stephanie Meeks.
In other news, Washingtonians remember the Gayety Theater, Cincinnati goes digital, Massachusetts reclaims its core, New Orleans' Lower Mid-City has moved, Miami has a lot of people talking about parking garages, and Marylanders are standing up for their Superblock. Meanwhile, Preservation in Pink ponders the rear of buildings (great topic!) and Time Tells muses on all things modern. And just to circle back on a previous round-up, Portland has decided to demolish a Googie gem.
With that, enjoy your weekend.
Jason Lloyd Clement is an online content provider for PreservationNation.org. He is still doing a happy dance re: Wilderness Battlefield.