Monday, June 1, 2009

Historic Preservation: Safeguarding Scenes from the Past

This month I’m doing something different. As a participant in Classic Romance Revival’s blog carnival, I’m supposed to address the topic, Settings: Simply Scenic or Something Significant? (be sure to visit CRR blog carnival central June 5-13th.)But, like my website, this blog is devoted to history so I thought I’d approach the subject of setting from a different angle—that of historic preservation.

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.

23 comments:

Kathleen O said...

Thank you for the history lesson, I did not realize that "Cutty Sark" was not just a name someone gave a "Scotch Wiskey". Should have guess it came from Robbie Burns..with my scotish hertiage I am surprised this had not come up before..I see we are lacking in our education about the "bard".

lastnerve said...

I loved your blog. I live in historic SC so history is one of my favorite subjects. We live not too far from ninety-six where the war took place and love to visit their war reenactments every year.

Val
lastnerve2000@gmail.com

lainey bancroft said...

So true, Joanna. As I mentioned on Lindsay's post, I'm in awe of authors who take the time to research and include minute historical details and share their passion for the past with readers.

Lindsay Townsend said...

Fascinating post, Joanna! I, too, was really sad to see the destruction of the Cutty Sark and wish her well for the future.

Jacquie Rogers said...

Historic preservation is one of dh's and my causes, too. I love being in a place where history was made. Sometimes you can feel the energy and emotion on the air.

She said...

I think it is imperative that we preserve the past. I believe that if we don't learn from the past we are destined to repeat the same mistakes. I'm greatful when I can go someplace like Williamsburg or Mystic Seaport, Connecticut and am able to visit a living history site. I find it fascinating to see how they lived in the past and to realize no matter how hard I think my life may be, I am so glad not to have lived during those times without the labor saving devices we have now. I love to see historic places. I love to read history. I love to learn and in the right hands history can come alive.

Babyblue22 said...

WOW!! What a great post Joanna!!!

I think Historic preservation is very important. What would we be without knowing where we've been!!

I really hope they don't make Little Green Street into a truck route ;-(, It such a beautiful group of building and so old, they should be preserved!!

~Afshan
Afshan522@aol.com

MAGGI said...

Very interesting and informative Joanna. Historical preservation is vital and thank heavens there are devoted people who fight for it. We have a wonderful old building in Sydney, the Queen Victoria Building, a superb example of Art Nouveau, which was almost lost to developers. We've lost so many great buildings but this one has thankfully been restored.
Maggi

Zene said...

I never looked at it that way before ur right perserving history so it lives on is important in books and in the world out side of books with out that past we r all stuck in a repetitive future. Ty for posting and giveing us ur point of view and what beautiful pictures
Beverly G.
mortalsinn@yahoo.com

MarthaE said...

Hi Joanna - I think it is wonderful that we preserve history so that future generations will have a better sense of what happened in the past. In addition to actual historic sites, I think authors help preserve history in books! For example, I may have studied about Waterloo in school but I have learned a lot more about the nitty gritty scenes of the Penisular wars and the Battle of Waterloo from reading historical novels!

Danielle Thorne said...

Being as I love ships and history to boot, I really enjoyed your post. It is a shame when regions don't direct efforts toward protecting their pasts. How luck you were to tour the Cutty Sark before it's destruction.

Monya Clayton said...

What, no one commented yet! But your post is so interesting, and preservation so vital.

I am constantly surprised by the ignorance of many of the general public about history. It's not simply a school subject (though it isn't even that very often anymore!) it's an understanding of ourselves, where we came from, what made us who we are.

I'm afraid the media are partly responsible. They sensationalise the here and now and never mention the historic roots of a problem. For instance, during the first Gulf War in 1990, I offered the loan of a book of mine to several newspapers and TV stations. It was an extended brochure about Iraq's history and current standing, including the rule of King Faisal II, who was assassinated in 1956. None of the papers were interested!

Thank goodness for people like you who are interested, and working toward, preserving the past. I wish the greatest good fortune in your endeavours.

Monya

Joanna Waugh said...

I apologize, everyone, for posting your comments so late. I just got back from Lori Foster's weekend and discovered there's a safeguard on my blogger account that requires I okay every post before it'll show up! Thank you all for your patience, and for stopping by to comment on my post about historic preservation. I'll be turning your names in for the prizes!

PhyllisC said...

I love when stories have true facts of history included in them. I appreciate all the hard work and research that goes into getting the facts right. I love to visit historical sites. I'm thankful for those who work so hard to preserve them. It's a shame that more haven't been saved.

Linda Banche said...

Unfortunately, we have too much of the mentality that "new" is "better". Sometimes, as in preserving history, new isn't better.

Sandra Kay said...

Joanna, I thoroughly enjoyed your post. I agree that Historic Preservation is so important. History is obviously a favorite subject of yours, and your settings are authentic because of that. In this respect, I believe your settings are "Specially Significant."

I agree with Kathleen O. I thought Cutty Sark was just a name for Scotch Whiskey.

Hywela Lyn said...

Enjoyed your post, Joanna. I two was saddened by the destruction of the Cutty Sark,these old sailing ships were so beautiful, you're so right about safeguarding the past.

LK Hunsaker said...

Joanna, I'm also a history lover who believes in preserving our past buildings and such. My grandma was part of her community's historical society that helped to do so and I may consider doing the same.

That's truly sad about the Cutty Sark but I'm glad parts of it are remaining.

E.A. West said...

Wonderful post! Preserving historical places is so important. When I was a child, my mother (a teacher) would take me to all kinds of historical locations and reenactments. I always enjoyed looking at houses that had been around for a couple of centuries and wondering what life might have been like for the first people who lived there. Those trips bought history to life for me. Without individuals and groups working to preserve those bits of history, I might have continued to see history as just a dry subject taught in school.

pams00 said...

I enjoyed your post Joanna. How luck that you got to go visit the Cutty Sark. I was not ware of where the name derived from thank you for sharinng.

That is so sad about its destruction.

Pam S
pams00@aol.com

LORETTA CANTON said...

It a shame when so many historic building are being torn down to replace them with development.

Joanna Waugh said...

I want to thank everyone who took the time to stop by my blog and comment. The following three people will move on to the finals of CRR's blog carnival:
PhyllisC
MarthaE
KathleenO

Congratulations ladies!

Ashley Ladd said...

I didn't know the history behind Cutty Sark, either. I love learning about historical places and objects.

I missed seeing and spending time with you at Lori's this year, too. I definitely plan to attend in 2010 so plan on it. :)