Those who love learning about the past are natural advocates of historic preservation. Whether collecting antiques or snapping photos, we all are engaged in preserving scenes from the past. Too many of those scenes, however, have disappeared, or are about to. Check out efforts to save Hougoumont Farm at historic Waterloo Battlefield in Belgium. And the struggle to protect Little Green Street in London--one of the last Georgian neighborhoods of that great city. (Structures along this seven foot wide cobblestone lane survived the Blitz of WWII but now are threatened by construction trucks that will quite literally will pass inches from the front doors of houses built in the 1780s.)
I was particularly saddened by the destruction of the Cutty Sark in 2007. Six years before this tea clipper ship caught fire, I was lucky to tour it while visiting London. Fortunately, most of the bow and stern portions of the ship survived. The good news is that the sixty figureheads on display had been removed because of ongoing restoration work.
The Cutty Sark was built in 1869 and dry-docked in Greenwich as a museum in 1954. “Cutty sark” is a Scots term for chemise. It’s the nickname of the witch Nannie Dee in Robert Burn’s poem Tam o’Shanter.
To the right is a photo of the ship’s figurehead. The linen draped below Nan’s breasts is the “cutty sark.” She’s holding the tail of Tam’s horse which came off in her hand as she pursued him.
Click here to learn more about the Cutty Sark Conservation Project
Best-selling author David McCullough postulates that history is about who we are and why we are the way we are. He says: The pull, the attraction of history, is in our human nature…history ought to be a source of pleasure…it's an enlargement of the experience of being alive…
Preserving scenes from the past—whether in the physical sense or through the written word—is how we ensure that experience for future generations.