It’s Not Only Greece…

UPDATE to Feb. 26 post    

The economic impossibility of supporting heritage monuments and material culture is increasingly being felt all over the world.  It is time to reflect on the meaning of preserved buildings, their social significance, and their importance to the future.      

As the story below observes:  “Every time a historical site comes down, a little bit of who we are goes with it.”  Maybe that’s not a bad thing if our officially recognized “historical sites” are of a type that emphasizes a certain class, ethnicity, and national narrative– or a certain unchanging relationship between them.    

That’s why I tend to prefer Intangible Heritage  as a starting point for collective memory.  There is an unexhaustible supply, it can be the source of contemporary creativity, and it absolutely demands active participation, not cement and steel reinforcing beams.  Economics is again determining what we will remember and what we will forget…    

From the Middletown, NY Times Record-Herald:    

Historic sites languish without funding

Fewer resources could hurt efforts at 3 local landmarks

By Christian Livermore
Posted: February 28, 2010 – 2:00 AM

It hides behind the main house. Fading gray and green paint, boarded-up windows, and nailed to the wall, a sign: No Trespassing. Yes, no trespassing. American history here. Stay away.    

It used to be a house, the house where William Henry Seward – senator, governor, and secretary of state during the Civil War – was born.
Now it’s a barn.    

It’s one of dozens of neglected historical sites in the Hudson Valley. Sometimes it’s a lack of money, others a lack of will. To Richard Hull, professor of history at New York University and town historian of Warwick, it’s unconscionable.    

Courtesy Bannerman Castle Trust


“A building isn’t just four walls and a roof,” he said. “Buildings have their own genealogy. They are physical expressions of our heritage, our past.”    

Funding for historic preservation was hard to come by before the recession. Now, more and more projects are competing for less and less money. For those that don’t get it, ruin awaits.    

Case in point: Bannerman Castle in the Hudson River. Area residents awoke shortly after Christmas to find that a portion of it had collapsed.    

Every time a historical site comes down, a little bit of who we are goes with it.  State, cities have less to spend…    

Click here to read more.    

*   *   *    

Who says that the ruins of Gilded Age industrialists’ mansions are necessarily the most important or the most necessary thing we save?    


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