Forum Journal & Forum Focus

Game Change: Introduction (Fall 2012) 

12-09-2015 17:35

For 25 years, the National Trust’s quarterly publication, Forum Journal, has been publishing articles by the leaders in the preservation movement. Many of these articles have had a significant impact on the field, leading to new ways of thinking and advances in preservation practice. We call them “game changers.”

Now we have an opportunity to expand the content and impact of the journal in ways we could not have predicted 25 years ago. Beginning in January with our Winter 2013 issue, the journal will be distributed in a digital format that allows us to offer richer content including video clips, slide shows, interactive features, and links to supplementary resources. But before we move into the world of digital publishing we wanted to reflect on a quarter century of publishing and the game-changing articles that have shaped our movement. We have asked the authors to write introductions sharing how they think their words have influenced the preservation movement.

In many cases, these articles have reached far beyond the Forum audience: they have been required reading for preservation students, reprinted in countless newsletters, and used time and time again to persuade city councils, mayors, and local business owners to invest in the rehabilitation of their community’s historic resources. As we pored over these pieces, it proved quite difficult to winnow the list down to just seven.

Starting with the first issue of Forum Journal, which was initially published in 1987, Carol Shull, Keeper of the National Register, wrote an article on the future of the National Register. As we re-read Shull’s article, we find that many of her recommendations have come to pass, especially those relating technology.

Constance Beaumont’s “The Critical Need for a Sensitive—and Sensible—National Transportation Policy,” gave preservationists the policy recommendations and language they needed to make the case for a more sustainable transportation policy. The result? The Intermodal Transportation Efficiency Act (ISTEA) and 20 years of transportation enhancement funding for preservation projects.

An early rallying cry for why and how the preservation field should be more inclusive of all cultures was Toni Lee’s article, “Cultural Diversity in Historic Preservation.” She notes that while preservation has become more diverse, preservationists still need to rethink some of the usual preservation practices when working with our nation’s many diverse cultural groups.

In 1995, when Richard Longstreth wrote, “I Can’t See It: I Don’t Understand It: and It Doesn’t Look Old to Me,” modern architecture was still very much misunderstood and unappreciated. In spite of increasing appreciation for buildings from the recent past, many modernist icons are still threatened, such as Chicago’s Prentice Hospital.

Donovan Rypkema, in his article “Economics and Historic Preservation,” got preservationists talking about economics in a way they hadn’t before. Today, he asks preservationists to think about whether, indeed, we are really better off considering today’s economic and political climate.

Richard Moe asked if we had too many house museums in his 2002 article and urged historic site advocates to start looking realistically at their traditional management models and get creative about new ways to protect and sustain house museums. This led many museums to consider new ways of programming and partnering with the surrounding community.

Five years ago, Carl Elefante coined the phrase “The Greenest Building Is…One that Is Already Built,” in his early and articulate argument for the connection between historic preservation and sustainability. In revisiting his article, however, he warns that preservationists need to be ever more vigilant about the effects of climate change on historic resources.

Twenty-five years ago, we committed ourselves to creating a “forum” to ask tough questions, share ideas and information, inspire action, and celebrate accomplishments. Forum Journal, as reflected in these articles, has accomplished all that and more. Forum Journal in digital format will do no less, and, indeed, we believe more. It will continue its high standard of editorial content while that the same time taking advantage of the latest technology to bring you fuller and more diverse content than ever before.

I hope you will enjoy this look back, and will join us as we take a leap forward come January.

Publication Date: Fall 2012


Author(s):Stephanie K. Meeks