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Irish History: As Fresh as Today’s News

Posted on: September 16th, 2009 by David J. Brown

 

River Boyne lock restoration project.

River Boyne lock restoration project.

As part of today’s International Conference of National Trusts, I joined a tour into the countryside to explore a bit of Irish history and see rehabilitation and interpretive efforts at work.

Our host for the conference, An Taisce, the National Trust for Ireland, owns a 1748 canal running through Ireland’s valley of the kings along the River Boyne. The canal is under restoration and we had a chance to meet with the energetic project manager and learn about his work. The lock shown above is where the salt water from the sea meets the fresh water of the river.

This important part of the Irish attempt to capitalize on the Industrial Revolution was only one of the sites we visited. Another was the site of the Battle of the Boyne, where in 1690 protestant King William of Orange defeated the army of the Catholic King James II. There’s a recently opened visitors and interpretive center which we toured with a guide from the site.

The Battle of the Boyne.

The Battle of the Boyne.

As An Taisce put it in the conference materials, “the outcome of this battle has been the source of much bitterness historically and the correct interpretation of the site has been integral to the Irish Peace Process.” The closing line of the center’s interpretive film put it a little more directly: Issues arose in the battle that “reverberate to today.” The good efforts to focus on how different parts of Ireland view the battle and its outcome were obvious, showing another way historic places resonate even today. You could say that Irish history isn’t even history because it is as fresh as the morning’s news.

David J. Brown is the Executive Vice President of the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

The National Trust for Historic Preservation works to save America's historic places. Join us today to help protect the places that matter to you.

World’s National Trusts Unite in Fighting Climate Change

Posted on: September 15th, 2009 by David J. Brown 4 Comments

 

Former President of Ireland, Mary Robinson.

Former President of Ireland, Mary Robinson.

Sunday was a historic day for the world’s heritage community, gathered here in Dublin under the auspices of the International National Trusts Organisation (INTO) for the 13th International Conference of National Trusts. Our own National Trust President, Richard Moe, captured the importance of the event when he said:

Yesterday’s endorsement of the Dublin Declaration on Climate Change by the International National Trusts Organisation marks the first time that the world’s heritage community has united to take decisive action on an issue of global importance. INTO has sounded an alarm bell, reminding people everywhere that the world’s natural and cultural heritage is imperiled by climate change. By urging governments to take strong actions to fight climate change, including promoting the reinvestment in existing communities, reuse of existing buildings and retrofits to increase energy efficiency, INTO has spotlighted the fact that wise stewardship of the built environment can – and must – play a key role in efforts to address the climate-change crisis and foster sustainable development.

With a conference theme of Heritage of a World in Trust: Conservation in a Changing Climate, the opening day’s activities have been focused on the endorsement of the Dublin Declaration and on several powerful presentations from the leaders of the National Trust movement and others. We heard the former President of Ireland, Mary Robinson, speak forcefully and eloquently about the issue of “climate justice” and the need for the developed countries to truly understand the full impact of climate change—including the loss of irreplaceable heritage—on the developing nations. Dame Fiona Reynolds, head of the British National Trust (and a plenary speaker at our upcoming conference in Nashville) tied the issues of global recession and climate change together to call on National Trusts to lead the way in thinking differently about humankind’s relationship with the natural and built environment and to help build a more sustainable future. Richard Moe’s call for sustainable stewardship based on the five principals of the Pocantico Proclamation on Sustainability and Historic Preservation struck a resonant chord with the more than 150 delegates in attendance at the conference.

"Green School" participant Eammon Hayes.

"Green School" participant Eammon Hayes.

But for many in the room, the most eloquent presentation came in the form of a short talk by Eammon Hayes, a 16-year-old who has participated in An Taisce’s “Green School” program at Ballina National School in County Tipperary. Entitled Your Legacy to My Generation, he spoke of how the Green School program was actively involving the youth of Ireland and was changing the way he lived his life. He pleaded with the participants to help, quoting the Ballina School motto:

“We have the world in our hands, so use your wits and pick up the bits.”

They say you shouldn’t follow children and animals on stage. All of us who followed Eammon today in giving presentations struggled to match his simple eloquence. But with the endorsement of the Dublin Declaration and the stirring calls for a more direct role by National Trusts in urging governments to recognize both the impact of climate change on our heritage and the role historic preservation can play in combating that change, we were all working toward the same goal.

David J. Brown is the Executive Vice President of the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

The National Trust for Historic Preservation works to save America's historic places. Join us today to help protect the places that matter to you.

Heritage of the World in Trust: Conservation in a Changing Climate

Posted on: September 14th, 2009 by David J. Brown 2 Comments

 

Tailor's Hall, An Taisce's headquarters.

Tailor's Hall, An Taisce's headquarters.

Every two years the world’s preservation and heritage conservation community comes together for the International Conference of National Trusts, a wonderful gathering of colleagues and friends working together across the globe to protect, enhance and responsibly enjoy our planet’s fragile heritage. This year we’ve gathered in Dublin, Ireland, where our host An Taisce, the National Trust for Ireland, has welcomed us with a program of presentations and tours of their projects (and even some strong Irish whiskey!).

The conference theme is Heritage of the World in Trust: Conservation in a Changing Climate, and over the next few days I’ll be posting reports on how the world’s heritage community is coming together as never before to speak out forcefully on the impact of climate change on the unique places that speak to our common heritage. National Trust for Historic Preservation President Richard Moe is joining Ireland’s Minister for the Environment John Gormley and the former President of Ireland Mary Robinson along with his counterparts at the world’s largest National Trusts in this morning’s opening plenary. Dick will be speaking on our work to demonstrate preservation’s role in combating climate change — an important and somewhat new perspective in the heritage community’s long battle to protect our natural and built environments.

St. Patrick's Cathedral, Dublin.

St. Patrick's Cathedral, Dublin.

Changing climate also refers to the rapidly changing world we live in. I’ll be speaking later in the week about our adaptation to changing communication tools in the battle to save historic places. We’ll hear from Indonesia, Australia, and many other countries and continents on the work to make preservation and conservation relevant in the 21st century.

The International Conference of National Trusts has a 30-year history, but since we hosted this gathering in Washington in 2005, the world’s National Trusts have come together through the International National Trusts Organisation (INTO) to work year-round on common issues. I’ve been in Dublin since Friday as a member of INTO’s executive committee. Over the course of the next few days, I’ll also highlight some of the work INTO has supported. One thing you find out quickly when we gather together for these international conferences: no one model of National Trust (and there are many) has a monopoly on good ideas and effective work. So more to come in the days ahead, and I’ll even try and find time to throw in the occasional nugget (such as, who knew that Queen’s lead guitarist Brian May was both an astrophysicist and a protector of English country village history!).

David J. Brown is the Executive Vice President of the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

O'Donovan Rossa Bridge, 1816

O'Donovan Rossa Bridge, 1816

The National Trust for Historic Preservation works to save America's historic places. Join us today to help protect the places that matter to you.

 

The National Trust for Historic Preservation has long recognized that our work plays a dual role – simultaneously protecting history and the environment. Our sustainability initiative is focused on sharing our knowledge of how protecting the built environment can help combat climate change. We, however, are not the only heritage organization looking at these issues – many other groups around the world are facing many of the same challenges.

And so, the theme for 2009’s International Conference of National Trusts will be ‘Heritage of the World in Trust: Conservation in a Changing Climate.’ Hosted by An Taisce The National Trust for Ireland, the conference will be held in Dublin from September 13 – 17.

Unveiling the conference program, An Taisce’s recently-inaugurated Honorary President, Professor John Sweeney, said, “Protecting our heritage – comprising our buildings, landscapes and native species – requires all citizens to take part in acts of conservation. By this, we mean taking small steps like retro-fitting older buildings; holidaying at home, or spending a morning helping to clean up a beach.

It is expected that the conference will be attended by over 300 representatives from heritage trust organizations around the world, in addition to climate change experts, conservationists and academics. A declaration will emerge from the conference which will – it is envisaged – be of significant import to the forthcoming UN Copenhagen Conference on Climate Change.

Learn More »

David J. Brown is the Executive Vice President of the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

The National Trust for Historic Preservation works to save America's historic places. Join us today to help protect the places that matter to you.

Restoring the Readyville Mill

Posted on: February 13th, 2009 by David J. Brown

 

"All politics is local" the saying goes, and the same is often true for preservation. Though as executive vice president of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, I spend my days looking at preservation writ large, local triumphs still grab my attention, especially when they touch a spot as close to home as this one does.

The Readyville Mill sits on the Rutherford/Cannon County line near the town of Murfreesboro, Tennessee, where I spent my childhood years. At that time it was one of two mills remaining in the vicinity and was still in operation as a working mill for area farmers. Some time in the early 1970s I played some bluegrass at the mill as part of a heritage days festival. It was always a community center in this still-rural area of Middle Tennessee.

However, in the 1980s the mill was abandoned, a four lane highway opened up Cannon County to rapid development, and the mill seemed destined to either fall into the river from neglect or to be torn down for someone’s vision of a better community. Luckily Tom Brady (not the Patriots quarterback) stepped into the breech.

A local website describes the mill’s background:

The Readyville Mill is the sole vestige of what was once a flourishing industry on the Stones River in Middle Tennessee. Dating from the 1870s, the current Readyville Mill is a three-story building with an open fourth-story attic. In the early 1900s, the mill supplied the area with electricity, making Readyville one of the first rural villages in Tennessee to possess electric lights. Other products included ice, corn meal, refined flour, whole wheat flour, buckwheat flour, and lumber. The mill was in continuous operation until the early 1980s.

When I was in Tennessee a year or so ago, my brother Joe (an ornamental blacksmith and a great craftsman) took the children and me out to meet Tom and see the progress he was making in restoring the mill. It was a great treat to see this place coming back to life. And just yesterday, Joe sent me links to two You Tube videos that show Tom’s progress.

The National Trust for Historic Preservation works to save America's historic places. Join us today to help protect the places that matter to you.