This is Bricks + Mortar’s 100th blog post! To mark the milestone, today’s “Preservation Is…” is a little bit different from the usual affirmative/aspirational/positive quote about preservation that generally makes up the “Preservation Is…” feature. Today, I bring you a quote from the always incisive, exacting, and fearlessly opinionated CRM* and historic preservation expert, Tom King, that will whip the rose colored glasses right off of your face (or at least it did mine).
The quote comes from a critique of a Historic Resource Survey of the City of Decatur, Georgia (a suburb of Atlanta) that King published on his blog, Tom King’s CRM Plus, last week. Never shy, King blasts the historic preservation profession for its growing elitism, disconnection from the people and community it is supposed to serve, and its low-quality scholarship, calling it “pointless” and “irresponsible.”
… [O]ver the last twenty years or so, I have come to be alarmed at what historic preservation and CRM have become in this country – particularly in terms of their growing disconnection from the living communities that they must serve if they are to make any sense as aspects of public policy. I’ve also been dismayed at the quality of scholarship (if it can be called that) represented by their typical products. My concerns are outlined in the attached chapter from my 2011 reader, A Companion to Cultural Resource Management (Wiley-Blackwell 2011).
The Decatur “Final Report” does nothing to encourage me; it is as classic an example as I have recently seen of what has made historic preservation in this country a pointless, overly costly, elitist, and socially irresponsible activity.”
As this is the 100th post of Bricks + Mortar, I thought it might be a good time to examine his charges. After my initial reaction (eyes popping out of my head, jaw dropping, internally yelling “Nononononononono no! That is not preservation!” at the screen), I thought about what he said, his experience, his other writings, and realized it’s actually pretty difficult for me to argue with him on most of what he said, but more on that tomorrow. Today, I want to know what YOU think.
Readers who are HP professionals, what do you say? Do you agree with King? Has the profession grown elitist? Is it disconnected? Is the standard of scholarship too low?
Readers who are not professional preservationists, what have you observed? Is HP generally thought of as a profession that is elitist and disconnected from the community? What does it offer you and your community?
What do you feel about the charge that preservation in the US has grown pointless and socially irresponsible?
*To quote King himself, the term CRM or Cultural Resource Management is “used mostly by archaeologists and much more occasionally by architectural historians and historical architects, to refer to managing historic places of archaeological, architectural, and historical interests and considering such places in compliance with environmental and historic preservation laws.”