A Richer Heritage: Historic Preservation in the Twenty-First Century

By Robert E. Stipe | Go to book overview

CHAPTER FIFTEEN
Where Do We Go from Here?

ROBERT E. STIPE

The United States now has in place a historic preservation program that is the equal of any in the world. The state and local programs of the pre-1966 era, if not entirely a thing of the past, have been largely replaced by the federal, state, and local partnership created in the sixties. We owe a tremendous debt to those individuals who created the 1966 National Historic Preservation Act and sold it to Congress, as well as to those who came before them.1

But no system or, indeed, the larger context in which it operates is stable indefinitely. Times change, values and fashion change. Preservationists come and go, and over time even generational changes occur in thinking about preservation. Although the basic preservation-conservation process described in Chapter 1 remains much as it always has, some aspects of the field—especially those having to do with significance, integrity, and treatment—are moving targets. Challenges to the concept of what is worth preserving and to whom it is important have been forthcoming with an ever-stronger voice since the early 1980s, and the beginning of the twenty-first century seems an opportune time to reexamine our traditional ways of doing things. This chapter reviews our strengths as a movement, as well as those circumstances that give us difficulty and that work against us. It ends with some personal observations about how we might become more effective preservationists and the new directions we might take.


We Have Come a Long Way

The basic philosophy underlying the new preservation of the 1960s and 1970s was not really new. It built upon then-current ways of doing things and continued to focus on historical events in which the major players were, as someone irreverently put it, dead white guys of European descent. It placed strong emphasis on protecting the physical reality of buildings, structures, objects,

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