Monday, January 4, 2010

“Preservation Needs a Vocabulary Reset,” by Clem Labine

There’s a great article on Clem Labine’s website: www.period-homes.com (Clem Labine started Old-House Journal in 1973) which I’ve listed on my Suggested Reading List. The article is about bringing Preservation Vocabulary up to date, but I think it’s more than that. He received a comment from a reader, which he assumed is considerably younger than himself, who implied that preservation’s moment had come and gone; that it was a passé movement. Scary thought. He says, “Our culture has an ever-shortening attention span combined with a ravenous appetite for novelty,” which is nothing new, but devastating to preservation efforts. He goes on to mention Lisa P. Jackson, Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, who said, “Over the years, environmentalism has largely been seen as an enclave of the privileged.” He then says, substitute the word ‘preservation’ for ‘environmentalism’ and the sentence is still true. “If Jackson is having trouble selling environmentalism in the face of global climate change, just imagine how much harder it is to get the general public – and especially people suffering economic hardships – excited about historic preservation.” His article’s intention was to argue that preservation needs to start selling itself differently, and one of the ways to do that is by using different language so that our younger generations catch on. I think it’s not as simple as that, and also has to do with ones values, but he disagrees. Anyway, as far as vocabulary suggestions, Labine recommends substituting ‘conservation’ for ‘preservation,’ and use “green” and “sustainable” terms as often as possible.

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