Looking Back on 2014

By Forum Online posted 12-31-2014 09:23

 Lincoln's Cottage | Credit: National Trust for Historic Preservation
Lincoln's Cottage | Credit: National Trust for Historic Preservation

In 2014 the Preservation Leadership Forum blog took on several big topics including midcentury modern, the “why” of old places, and the use of big data to make the case for old buildings.

Tom Mayes’ Why Do Old Places Matter posts, in particular, resonated strongly with Forum readers. In this series, Mayes examines why people connect with old places around the world. Mayes writes about Individual Identity, Civic, State, National, and Universal Identity, Beauty,History, Architecture, Sacred, Sustainability, and Creativity. His essay on learning, elicited a number of comments from Forum readers who responded with examples of their own about what we can learn from old places and how they make history more present—here and now. In this post, Mayes reminds readers that “these types of visceral experiences at old places facilitate our potential to understand—and remember—complex ideas, and are available every day at hundreds of historic sites around the country.”

The Why Do Old Places Matters series will continue in 2015 and will serve as the topic for the spring issue of the Forum Journal.

Preserving Midcentury Modern Heritage

 Bob's Big Boy, Burbank, CA. 1949. Wayne McAllister, architect. Since being landmarked, Bob's has expanded business with a sidewalk dining area.
Bob's Big Boy, Burbank, CA. 1949. Wayne McAllister, architect. Since being landmarked, Bob's has expanded business with a sidewalk dining area.

Another popular series looked at sites from the more recent past. In January, Roberta Lane, National Trust senior field officer and attorney, kicked off the Preserving Midcentury Modern Heritage series pointing out that “It is easy to fall in the trap of arguing that a place is an important example of its style, maybe concentrating solely and broadly on the Modern Movement, for example, without also sharing the human stories associated that particular place.”

In addition these essays in this series collectively emphasized the complexity of modernist resources and the need for flexibility and new tactics when trying to save them.

Older, Smaller, Better

Photo Credit: New York World-Telegram and the Sun Newspaper Photograph Collection, Jane Jacobs | Credit: Library of Congress, Reproduction Number: LC-USZ-62-137838.
Photo Credit: New York World-Telegram and the Sun Newspaper Photograph Collection, Jane Jacobs | Credit: Library of Congress, Reproduction Number: LC-USZ-62-137838.

The Preservation Green Lab (PGL) was in the spotlight this year for its pioneering research on the role of older, smaller buildings in contributing to vibrant communities and healthy, livable cities. Mike Powe, senior research manager in PGL, introduced this research in a series of posts explaining the importance of big data in measuring the impact of older, smaller buildings. Powe also explored how this new PGL research confirms that Jane Jacobs was right all along when she insisted that older buildings were critical assets for distinctive local businesses and healthy, livable neighborhoods.

Read the full series:

Preservation in the 21st Century

The third series this year examined what the preservation movement needs to do in order to survive in the 21st century. In his Preservation in the 21st Century series, National Trust Chief Preservation Officer David Brown stated that “Places change as they are imbued with meaning, memory and stories. Looking at landmarks only through an architectural historian’s lensand not other character-defining aspects of place and without empirical understanding of what they contribute to city lifeseverely limits our understanding of what makes our older and historic buildings special.” Read Brown’s full series: Change Is the Constant, Preservation Is About People, Preservation Is a Political Movement.

…And Much, Much, More

Several posts helped to set the stage for various presentations at the 2014 PastForward conference. Two posts asked readers to re-examine traditional preservation practices. Michael Allen, founder and director of the Preservation Research Office asked readers “Is the National Register of Historic Places Helping or Hindering Legacy City Preservation?,” and Adam Markham from the Union of Concerned reflected on the future of historic places and climate change. (Additional posts on legacy cities can be found here.)

Other posts chronicled new preservation tools and technologies, from digital survey apps (Detroit, Alexandria) to GIS (Storymaps) and even Attracting New Audiences through Instagram Tours. Remember that digital report card from LA? Read about it again: Grading Preservation: Developing a Preservation Report Card.

In 2014 Preservation Leadership Forum also published four issues of Forum Journal which examined tax credits for preservation, diversity and inclusion, the future of historic sites, and real estate.* We also released two Forum Focus papers on The Power of the Pro Forma and Putting the Older, Smaller, Better Report to Work. We also published Preservation Revolving Funds, the first in our Preservation Basics series. Look for more Preservation Basics in 2015.

When we look back at 2014, we are encouraged by all the outstanding work that has been highlighted on the PLF blog, and would like to extend our sincere thanks to each of our contributors and members. With your help, we can continue to build a movement that is vibrant and strong. Above all Forum members remind us that preservation is about more than just the buildings we are protecting. In her keynote speech at PastForward, Stephanie Meeks, president of the National Trust for Historic Preservation said it best:

“Let’s bury the old stereotype of preservation as the “movement of no,” resist the temptation to let others limit us or to limit ourselves, and create the movement we know we can be: leading, problem-solving, proactive and people-focused.”

Happy New Year and visit us next week when we take a look forward at what 2015 brings.

*If you are not a member of Preservation Leadership Forum (you should be!) each topic also came with some free content – we’ve listed those for you below.

Forum Journals (Members Only), Enhanced Content and Web Companions (Open to All):

Winter 2014 Forum Journal: “Extra Credit” Rehabs

Spring 2014 Forum Journal: Imagining a More Inclusive Preservation Program

Summer 2014 Forum Journal: Stepping into the Future at Historic Sites

Fall 2014 Forum Journal: Get Real About Real Estate

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