An Ever Changing History: A Preservationist’s Demise?

David Lowenthal dives into an immensely deep discussion regarding the idea of an ever changing history in his work “The Past is a Foreign County” (1985).  In this context he speaks, if I am to be quite frank, cyclically  and overtly repetitive regarding this topic.  Sifting through this heavy text, however, one seems to find a bit of interest on the topic if one is to look at it with the eyes of a historic preservationist.  While I cannot claim to be a professional by any standard of the word as of late, I must admit that the idea that a history, collective, personal, national, what-have-you, can be altered, changed, or conceptually different between two people is baffling.

How is one to preserve a piece of history, built or otherwise, if one does not have the true or complete history?  History is biased, history is constantly on the move, history is generationally alterable, yet there exists a field in which some (hopefully myself included one day) can claim to be experts in preserving?  This is questionable, to me.  Who is to say that the history that one preserves is the ‘true’ history?  Who is to say that anyone even knows the ‘true’ history?  What of the value of the memory of a tale that is not on the winning side?  Why cannot those histories of the American Confederation, or of the Napoleonic Regieme be intrinsic to the collective history of the present as opposed to those of their opposition?  Is the aim of preservationists to get the idea of our histories correct to the present-day’s  context of history, or to shoot for the closest thing to truth that there may be?  It seems like, in order to consciously preserve, we must acknowledge that we will never be 100% right.

These are just my thoughts, and like thoughts and histories and memories, some are to be forgotten.


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