Sunday, December 30, 2012

Review of Preservation Politics by Bill Schmickle (93)


Several months ago I received an ad from AltaMira Press for a new book titled Preservation Politics: Keeping Historical Districts Vital.

Curious but uncertain about its quality, I asked the publisher to send me a gratis copy for possible review in this blog. To my surprise, it did.

As it turns out, I am happy to have the book and to review it favorably.

I am happy because Mr. Schmickle rejects the doctrinaire piousness and denial that has characterized much writing (and action) on historical preservation and starts to come to grips with the fact that the American historic preservation enterprise is in decline.

He elucidates several reasons for this, not least of which is the high-minded arrogance of many preservationists.

Having set this as the stage, his central plea is for preservationists to be more “political” in the sense of paying better attention to preservation opponents and being more willing to devise accommodative lines of action.

Such a view is of course heresy to many preservationists. My surmise is that he only gets a hearing in the preservationist world because he was co-founder of the Oak Ridge, North Carolina Historical District, has served as Chair of the Annapolis Historic Preservation Commission, and is, by accounts I have read, a truly nice guy (# 2).

The book is laced with “on-point” quotes from historical figures, my favorite being from Voltaire: “May God defend me from my friends; I can defend myself from my enemies” (p, 75).

 Among other unsettling postures among our friends, Schmickle etches the “Should-Know-Betters: Preservation Radicals.” I reproduce it here as graphic # 4, which is from, page 85 of the book.

The table of contents reproduced in graphic # 3 conveys the flow of the book. More enlightened preservationist responses to it are seen in the quotes reproduced as graphics numbers 5 and 6.


Relating all this to Davis, my sense is that while there is a great deal of angst about the present and future of historic preservation in many other places, hardly anyone in Davis seems especially concerned one way or another.