By Barbara J. Little, Editor
When we step back and take a look at cultural heritage management, we see a broad and varied set of practices applied to a wide range of places and objects. Sometimes our efforts seem to be driven only by laws, regulations, and policies from the local to the international levels. However, deeper than any need for compliance with legal requirements are our cultural connections to the heritage we value. In times of emergency, such places take on extremely powerful meanings. They often are, as Ian Brown has expressed it, “a little bit of solace in the tempest.”1
On April 27, 2011 a vicious tornado tore through Tuscaloosa, Alabama. Throughout the southeastern United States, a terrifying rash of tornadoes and storms killed hundreds of people and destroyed homes, businesses, and whole neighborhoods. Writing about the tragedy’s aftermath, Professor Brown describes a small amount of the devastation2:
The Rosedale Apartment complex on the west side of town is no more; the historic districts of Glendale Gardens, Hillcrest, and the Downs have entered the pages of history; the Crescent Ridge Road through Holt is no longer recognizable as a community; and Alberta City was virtually leveled.
He describes the survival of the Alberta City Cemetery, a place that had become meaningful to him over the decades living in Tuscaloosa as a testimony to the persistence of community:
Although its pretty fence is in ruins and the twisted debris of decimated houses are piled along its edge, the cemetery itself survives. There were too few trees within the grounds to fall when the tornado struck, and those that did missed the dozen or so standing markers. The only real difference is that the cemetery itself has become a dominant feature on the landscape. Whereas previously the Alberta City Cemetery was a quiet haven of solitude, a current visitor to these grounds feels very much exposed.
The daily news is full of human tragedy, often seemingly far removed from our daily lives, but too often with direct impact on our own communities, our families, friends, and colleagues worldwide. In our quieter moments, we might take the time to recognize the importance of cultural heritage to us, but in the aftermath of disaster, such heritage becomes a source of touchstones embodying survival and promises for a future.
This issue of CRM Journal contains a range of contributions to remind us how diversified is the work we do to preserve, appreciate, and find meaning in cultural heritage. It is worth reminding ourselves now and then that we create the laws and policies and procedures because we are inspired to care for our heritage and thereby to support our own cultural sustainability. The legal and regulatory framework we’ve constructed provides opportunities, rather than burdens, to care for the heritage we care about.
Additional Note to Our Readers
CRM Journal has been receiving an unusually large influx of submissions. Thanks to all of our readers and contributors for your support (and for your patience).
Volume 8 is a little unusual because it contains both the Winter and Summer issues in one publication. That consolidation is temporary, but does highlight coming changes to the journal, as we redesign our online presence. Please keep up with news about changes to the journal on our main publications website