Tuesday, October 7, 2008

"Historic Preservation: Collective Memory and Historical Identity"

Historic Preservation: Collective Memory and Historical Identity explores the historical preservation practices and issues faced in, both, the United States and Britain. The US has romanticized history into a marketable, revenue generating entity. Preserving history has become very popular in the United States to the end that tax incentives are being acquired by individuals purchasing historic sites. Great Britain, however, has taken a social class approach to historic preservation. Britain’s preservation process is controlled by the ruling class, first, as an extension of their aristocracy and, lastly, as a tool conveying the country’s history to the public. In addition, British citizens question the authenticity of the interpretation being displayed. On the other hand, the United States is more decentralized. Despite the phases historic preservation has taken in the US, patriotic and economic, the public maintained control in determining what was historical.
Diane Barthel has done a wonderful job of not simply sharing a historiography of the preservation field, but presenting a comparative of approaches to historical preservation. Although the US has moved to a more economically motivated system of preserving history, there has been an effort to educate the public in a melting pot fashion. There are many histories present in the United States and are authentically expressed in the nation’s historic sites, monuments and museums. Conversely, Britain contains lavishly detailed historic scenes, the history of its public is not represented in the “Preservation Project” of the country hindering the ability to communicate authentic references to the past. History is, ultimately, an interpretation that must be shared by those acting as the authority, as well as the people represented in the exhibit, monument or writing.

1 comment:

Brent said...

That was one thing that really stood out to me, how preserving and emphasizing the grand English homes really distorts history for the general populace. One thinks England was all fields and happy farmers. On the other hand the commercialization of American preservation is similarly unsettling. Distortions aside, for money history can and will be changed with little thought. People except museums and historic sites as reputable sources and often don’t question what is presented to them. This can be very dangerous at site that is run for more enterprise than education.