Why Preserve Historic Places

Plaque designation for property on the National Register of Historic Places.

Plaque designation for property on the National Register of Historic Places.

The idea behind historic preservation is to preserve buildings, objects, artifacts, and outdoor locations of historical importance for current and future generations. Seeing something tangible from the past provides a greater authenticity to history instead of only hearing about it. Why was something built or created in the first place? What was the significance of it? Did it contribute to changes in society, either in ways of thinking or in manufacturing? Was it an important spot for explorers or settlers, or it is a memorial to a somber chapter in history?

Historic preservation offers insights to the past from architecture to daily life. Whether discussing the large estates of members of the upper class or the log cabins of settlers, visitors can see the furniture, fashions, and accessories of that time period. What kinds of games did children play? What was school like? How long did it take to prepare meals when there were no modern appliances? What were the social customs of the day? These house museums tell their story in context with history and the people who lived and worked there.

Preserved examples of air, sea, and land transportation illustrate how modes of travel have evolved. For example, crossing the Atlantic took months by ship in the 1600s. The 19th-century clippers made the crossing possible in a few weeks, and today’s ships take only a few days. Historic vessels, or their replicas, are often part of maritime museums with exhibits and waterfront buildings adding to the visible passage of time. Some of the ships are permanently berthed while others offer public sails.

Living history museums have the equivalent of several city blocks dedicated to a specific time period. Some are riverboat landings and frontier towns, others are settlements of American Indian life and colonial villages. Employees and volunteers wear period costumes and portray members typical of the community. These could include the village blacksmith, printer, general store clerk, or demonstrations of cooking, farming, and handmade items which are now manufactured in large quantities in factories.

Outdoor locations, such as veterans’ cemeteries and battlefields, are memorials to those who fought for the safety of this nation. Historic monuments honor people and events for courage and accomplishments often made in the face of adversity. Someone had to be the first to raise the standard to inspire others. Sculptures of Greek and Roman mythological figures are also sources of inspiration. One of the most notable is the Roman goddess, Libertas, as the Statue of Liberty.

Historically preserved sites are visual references from the past to the present. They help everyone have a better understanding of the achievements, hardships, successes and failures of what made a nation, a community, or specific group what it is today. Each generation builds upon the lessons of the past while laying additional layers of groundwork for the future. Without preservation, these visible links would not exist and neither would their ability to inspire and educate.

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For additional information about historic preservation:

National Register of Historic Places

National Trust for Historic Preservation