Lockport, Illinois, part of the I & M Canal National Heritage Corridor
The first of two blogs on my plan to transform the statutory and philanthropic foundations of heritage conservation. Today we deal with the statutory in the United States…
As I prepare to move on from Global Heritage Fund after three years, I am committed more than ever to the transformation of the field of heritage conservation. In the distant past, heritage conservation was a curatorial activity that sanctioned and even encouraged the removal of physical – and intangible – artifacts from our economic everyday in order to conserve them as if under a bell jar. But, as I demonstrated in my dissertation, that approach began to die as historic preservation (in the U.S.) and heritage conservation (everywhere else) were infused with community-based activism and organization in the 1960s. I had the good fortune of coming into the field during the creation of the first heritage area in the U.S. 32 years ago. Continue Reading
I was re-reading one of my blogs from nine years ago (430 posts now – I guess I am about consistency and endurance whether I like it or not) and was struck (again) by my (consistent) non-ideological approach to heritage conservation. That blog “Heresy and Apostasy” basically took to task the concept that preservation had some kind of ideological purity and that those who didn’t try to save absolutely everything all the time were not “true” preservationists.
I recalled my youth in the field, when I did come close to that position, but it was never one I was completely comfortable with. First, ideologies sit outside of history and thus fail all tests of time. Second and more to the point, I began my career working on a heritage area – the first in the U.S. – and the goals there were historic preservation, natural area preservation, recreation, and economic development. Preservation was part of planning for the future. Preservation was a wise economic decision, especially in a post-industrial economy. Continue Reading
Dude is starting a fire with flint and steel on a real island in Illinois
For thirty years I gave tours of the Illinois and Michigan Canal National Heritage Corridor outside Chicago and talked about the earliest European history of the area, which was the French trade, the couriers de bois who paddled through the wilds of the upper Midwest from Montreal in search of one thing: beaver pelts. Why? To make fancy top hats for the European upper class. Continue Reading
we could all use some of this
That blog also delved into the 41-year history of World Heritage, which includes both cultural, natural and “mixed” sites. I detailed how we had shifted in heritage conservation from iconic and monumental singular sites to broader cultural landscapes. In recent discussions with conservation foundations, I am sensing a new confluence of heritage conservation and natural conservation as both approaches are moving into the arena of cultural landscapes. Continue Reading
Pingyao, a city core we have been working in since 2008
The World Bank recently published a book called “The Economics of Uniqueness: Investing in Historic City Cores and Cultural Assets for Sustainable Development.” which is an intriguing title given our work at the Global Heritage Fund, since it pretty much defines a key feature of our mission: saving heritage sites and making them work economically for local communities in developing countries.
The report includes contributions by Christian Ost, an acknowledged leader in the economics of historic cities, and the award-winning Donovan Rypkema, both members of our Senior Advisory Board. More than simply touting the various types of economic benefit brought to communities by heritage conservation (jobs, land value, tourism, etc.) the report actually focus on the strategy and process of heritage conservation. This is key. At Global Heritage Fund we talk about our Preservation by Design® methodology combining scientific conservation, planning, partnerships and community development. You can only sustain a heritage resource if the community is involved in, and benefits from, its conservation. That way you have a multigenerational conservation strategy. Continue Reading
Last Saturday, Irena Bakova, Director-General of UNESCO, was in Chicago for a meet-and-greet with local heritage conservation professionals, and last night ICOMOS Director Gustavo Araoz spoke as part of the Chicago Modern: More Than Mies series, presented by the Save Prentice Coalition of AIA Chicago, docomomo Midwest, Landmarks Illinois, The National Trust for Historic Preservation and Preservation Chicago. Both talked about Chicago’s singular architectural legacy and suggested that Chicago would be an ideal World Heritage city. Continue Reading
The main plaza from the roof of City Hall
We have been in Lima for a week now with 15 students from our Cultural Futures: Lima class and it has been very successful. We just completed presenting our ideas and designs that were developed during the class and during the last week of hard work in the Municipalidad, which is located right in the center of town on the lovely Plaza des Armas.
With the aid of Gunther Merzthal, the city’s urban agriculture expert, we presented several projects to various agencies and officials. One project we developed during the last semester and revised based on feedback from the Department of the Environment, which is the primary contact in the city administration for our SAIC class. This was a green roof for the City Hall in Lima. They likely were aware of Chicago City Hall’s famed green roof and our students came up with a design that not only integrated social and educational functions but also remained within the sight lines required by the landmarks agency, ProLima, which oversees development in the Cercado, the center of Lima which was inscribed as a World Heritage Site some two decades ago.
“The success of preserving our global cultural patrimony is not merely a function of financial or economic investment, but requires implementation of a methodology encompassing several essential and inter-related factors that lays the foundation for long-term sustainability.”
“Over time, the challenge is not just the implementation of world-class conservation, but to invest in local conservation and economic capacity.”
The above quote from the Global Heritage Fund’s 2008 white paper “Sustainable World Heritage Preservation in Developing Economies” epitomizes the 21st century approach to heritage conservation (historic preservation) that combines earlier curatorial and architectural standards with an advanced understanding of political and social economy. This advanced understanding is one of the reasons I was pleased to accept the role as Chair of the Senior Advisory Board of the Global Heritage Fund this fall. Continue Reading