Monday, June 26, 2006

Being selective in destroying Memphis

In the editorial called "Being selective in saving history" in last Sunday's Commercial Appeal, Chris Peck wrote:
When an opportunity arises to preserve history in a way that helps locals understand their place in the world, or when an opportunity comes along to preserve and restore something that has unique, relevant value to history, every effort should be launched to preserve and restore.

The Zippin Pippin didn't rise to that level. The old post office probably does.

Historic artifacts can and should be preserved when they truly illuminate the past and when they can endure as economic and cultural treasures.
Could his idea of history and preservation be more narrow and antiquated? It's history as museum piece, surrounded by velvet ropes, narrated by little old ladies, scowling at youngsters bored by look-but-don't-touch dioramas.

History is everywhere and its architecural embodiment is everywhere. We live in it, work in it, sleep in it, play in it. The manifestation of the city's history is its complete architectural texture -- not isolated 9-5 M-F museum pieces, surrounded by tree-less parking lots or freshly sodded fields.

I think we could bulldoze much of San Francisco, New Orleans, London, Rome and Jerusalem using Mr. Peck's litmus test. The remaining building would be the stuff that travel brochures and history books are made of, but the cities would be gone.


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