Past vs. Future?

Perry L., Week 4 Question:

In All Over the Map, a prominent theme is the movement to preserve history, namely regional history, in America.  Ayers and Onuf say “Regions may be in danger not only from malls and cable television but also from attempts to freeze places in time or to define some particular component of a region as its essence….”[1]

My question is: How far should we go in historic preservation?   In our attempts to memorialize the past, how much are we restricting the progress of the future? If we focus on remembering the past in the spaces around us, we will eventually run out of new spaces in which we can write the future.  For example, what if every neighborhood in Richmond was marked a historic district?  I am sure that many city spaces have had a certain amount history that we think would be worth preserving, and this preservation might manifest itself in manners such as converting old homes to museums or legislation preventing construction in close proximity to “historic places.”  However, if we were to make every single space in the city a “frozen” preservation of the past, we would have little space in which we could write the next chapter of our history.

On the other side of the coin, shouldn’t we make an attempt to preserve the history of our past, the actions and spaces of our ancestors?  How far should we go?  Since we do not currently preserve every possible “historic space” in Richmond, someone must have made the decision that some spaces are more valuable for historic preservation than others.  So, in our nostalgia of past eras, how far do we go to preserve the spaces that once had such a large influence on our society?  Do we forego the preservation of some historic memories in the hopes of creating new memories in the future?

[1] Edward L. Ayers and Peter S. Onuf, All Over the Map: Rethinking American Regions (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1996), 1-10.

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