Preserving Historic Identity in the United States: Theoretical and Practical Lessons for Maintaining Historic Character in Small Virginia Towns
Cox, Anna Louise
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This paper explores the preservation and presentation of small town historic identity. The current discussions and dialogue of scholars, theorists and critics of preservation efforts uncover preservation's presence and effect on today and tomorrow's world. Contemporary development patterns have led to an increasing amount of cities and towns across the United States to adopt preservation policies to maintain their historical identity and character. The preservation movement's acceptance and its increase in scope have also facilitated the integration of its values in planning policies. The successful history of the preservation movement in America is reviewed, along with its present-day use as a cultural and economic revitalization tool. Government and non-profit agencies at the national and state level have facilitated the widespread use of preservation policies with small towns in Virginia. Preservation policy objectives may include: heritage tourism, community revitalization, preservation and heritage education, economic development, and affordable housing. A diverse set of motivations is found in the psychological benefits of maintaining history. Preserving historic structures may contribute to one's sense of place, nostalgia, collective memory and historical identity. The preservation of old buildings and environments is used to serve a variety of town agendas. These motives, other than historical, are the focus of the critical literature on preservation efforts. Power, representation, consumerism, and authenticy are common criticisms of historic preservation practice that threaten the historic integrity of the town. These issues form a framework to analyze local preservation practice of small Virginia towns and provide towns with a means to evaluate their preservation policies or programs. This paper provides small towns with information to maintain their historic identity without threatening future vitality and authenticity of the built environment.