October 24, 2008

Dateline: Tulsa

It’s the last night for me here at the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s annual conference.  I am here as an employee of the Trust, not as an independent researcher.  I have tried to leave that “hat” in my hotel room every day before I head out to learn more about preservation as it’s practiced across the country.  But I can’t help but see how the conversations I’ve been having here at this conference will affect this project as I move forward. 

Here at the Trust, it’s very much about architecture.  Preservation happens because buildings speak to people, and then people speak to people (about buildings).  But it’s rarely about usage - how buildings are used, and by whom.  That almost never comes up in discussions with preservationists about preservation, unless it’s framed as a component of saving a property (we have to find a use!)  But this is problematic for the Trust, since it’s clear that they want to make their work more about the public and what matters to a wider audience, and in my experience, what matters to a wider audience is often use, and not architecture.  Beauty, yes.  History, certainly.   But I’m not so sure about architecture.  Because it’s not quite synonymous with beauty, is it?  

Copyright Anne Dodge, 2009   •   Contact acdodge at gmail dot com