CRM: The Journal of Heritage Stewardship - Summer 2010
CRM Journal

Introduction


Barbara J. Little, Editor

CRM Journal is particularly pleased to present the edited proceedings of “The Preservationist’s Eye: Esthetics in Reuse and Conservation of the Historic Built Environment” organized by the James Marston Fitch Charitable Foundation in September 2009. The viewpoint essays published here are each adapted from presentations in that symposium. John Stubbs provides background on Fitch’s influential career and describes the organization of the sessions. The impact of Fitch on research and teaching is clearly demonstrated here by the breadth of insight demonstrated in the array of essays written in honor of his legacy.

Fitch’s broad and deep thinking serves as inspiration today for the evolving sophistication of cultural heritage stewardship as it makes increasingly complex connections. Several contributions discuss intersections between preservation and sustainability, including the three pillars of environmental, economic, and social sustainability recognized as necessarily mutually supportive since the influential Brundtland Report was issued in 1987.1

Several of our viewpoint authors invoke ecological concepts to explore and explain the intimate connections between human actions and the natural world. Economic sustainability is clearly linked to the greening of existing buildings. Social sustainability, which is value-driven and relies on community participation, encourages new relationships between the professions and the public.2 These essays help us understand how our surroundings are dynamic, not only because landscapes change and grow in complex ways, but because both public and professional perceptions and values change over time.

Fitch’s centennial celebration simultaneously inspires reflection on the past, engagement with the present, and hope for the future. This issue’s spotlight interview, article, and research reports each offer a fitting complement.

In 1949 Congress chartered the nonprofit National Trust for Historic Preservation to provide leadership for preservation in the private sector. Russell Keune interviews Terry B. Morton about her career, integral to the development of the Trust in its formative years, and reaching well beyond to wider preservation arenas. Her career as a preservation activist demonstrates her influential national and international commitment to historic preservation, all while maintaining a grassroots passion for neighborhoods and individual properties.

Through a selection of Fiske Kimball’s own words, we gain insight into the early development of cultural heritage preservation in the U.S. National Park Service. Kimball successfully argued for the preservation of the Second Bank of the United States in Philadelphia and for archeological excavations on Jamestown Island in Virginia. John Sprinkle provides context for Kimball’s memoir as well as extensive annotation.

The research report by Sam Sweitz considers the integral relationship between cultural landscape and community identity. He reports on multidisciplinary investigations into Puerto Rico’s industrial heritage. Archival research, oral history interviews, and spatial analysis combine to document and explore how both company officials and inhabitants perceived of and used the landscape in the company town of Central Aguirre.

Describing a recent project undertaken by the Historic American Buildings Survey (HABS), Virginia Price illustrates questions embodied in the Holt House on the grounds of the National Zoo in Washington, DC. The Holt House embodies familiar and intriguing preservation challenges facing an extraordinary building whose surroundings have changed dramatically.

The contributors to this issue of CRM Journal speak to many kinds of connections, including those between cultural and natural heritage management, between people and their surroundings, and among the academic, governmental, and private sector partners who make preservation successful. Each offers a starting point to explore heritage as we perceive it, live with it, and manage it.

Too often historic preservation is perceived as looking only backwards, but the actions and attitudes which enable us to appreciate and care for our heritage are wholly invested in both the present and future. We want to enjoy a sense of place, connect with our surroundings, and live in communities that feel welcoming and enduring: all of which contribute to a sense of being at home, of belonging, and of having a legacy worth passing on.

Notes

1. “Report of the World Commission on Environment and Development: Our Common Future,” World Commission on Environment and Development, 1987. Published as Annex to General Assembly document A/42/427, Development and International Co-operation: Environment, August 2, 1987.

2. The emerging importance of values-based preservation has been eloquently discussed in previous issues of this journal. See, for example, Dirk H.R. Spennemann, “Gauging Community Values in Historic Preservation,” CRM: The Journal of Heritage Stewardship 3(2)(2006): 6-20; Randall Mason, “Theoretical and Practical Arguments for Values-Centered Preservation,” CRM: The Journal of Heritage Stewardship 3(2)(2006): 21-48.