The Future of Preservation

This is an correction to the article published in Issue 4, 2011. The original was not published in final draft form. Hope you enjoy!

PAM’s 30th anniversary is a wonderful opportunity to reflect on our success and the organization’s evolution since its inception in 1981. It is also a time to look forward and strategize for the years to come.

It is impossible to separate the future of PAM from the future of historic preservation as a whole. The field has changed drastically from the days of the Mount Vernon Ladies Association, and it continues to morph. In the last decade economic issues and environmental sustainability have come to the fore. Development trends and a shift in building uses are also steering preservation in new directions.

One of the most exciting paths of preservation is diversity, and diversity in several areas. One area is what we save. The types of resources we try to save aren’t only the fabulous mansions of famous men; we work to preserve ships, water towers, bridges, drive-ins, and so much more. The standard 50-year mark has brought us up to 1961, and with it new architectural styles and types of places that should be preserved.

Strict period preservation and house museums are still integral to our work, but preservation has grown to include adaptive reuse of buildings.  Creative minds are fitting new uses into old spaces and affording historic buildings renewed life. We’re proving that preservation isn’t strict and inflexible, but rather extremely malleable; a bit of imagination mixed with the restrictions of a particular building type can produce stunning results.

Another area of diversity exists in who we are. No longer are historic preservationists just history lovers and activists. Now it seems anyone can, and should, be a preservationist; sports enthusiasts, music lovers, fashionistas, cinephiles, cocktail connoisseurs…so many people have an interest in certain sites and places. Such an interdisciplinary field is a rarity, and we should embrace it. I am always pleasantly surprised by the people that I meet at PAM events, and am amazed to hear what interests brought them there.  Nearly any topic imaginable can be related to preservation, which is a unique opportunity for the growth and understanding of historic preservation.

We are also beginning to shed the label of a people refusing to move forward. Preservationists are making it clear that we are thinking of the future; where our children will grow up, how they will connect to their surroundings, and how these places will shape who they are. Simply put, preservation is for posterity.

The future of historic preservation is wide open, and PAM’s potential is limitless. No matter what road we take, the journey is sure to be full of excitement. While the fundamental idea of preserving our heritage for future generations still applies, the ways in which we can do it are endless. I, for one, can’t wait to see where the road leads.

Katherine Scott

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