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A Democratic Approach to Preserving History

Posted By Chris Van Vechten On April 19, 2010 @ 8:00 am In History,Local News,Ripe!,Tacoma,Washington State | No Comments

6a00e39331754e88340120a5cd32c2970c-320pi [1]Last night I received the following email from Historic Tacoma [2].

The National Trust for Historic Preservation in partnership with American Express has chosen 25 historic properties in the Seattle-Puget Sound area to compete for  $1 million in preservation grants. Of those 25 properties, two are located in Tacoma, the Spanish Steps and westside’s Titlow Park Lodge.  Sites in Pierce County include the Anderson Island Historical Society’s Johnson Farm; the Orting Soldiers Home, Garfield Hall; and Skansie Brothers Net Shed in Gig Harbor.  How can you help assure that these funds come to Tacoma and Pierce County?  You can VOTE!  Just go to www.partnersinpreservation.org [3] where you can vote for one project each day from April 15th through May 12.  Not only can you vote, you can forward this information to friends, family and co-workers or post it on your Facebook page and encourage them to vote.  Not only will your vote inform the overall grant making process, but the top vote recipient is guaranteed to have their project funded; a number of the other 25 properties will receive some level of funding.  You can learn more about the process on the Partners in Preservation Website….Historic Tacoma encourages you to VOTE [4] for funding for these Pierce County projects and to help spread the word by encouraging others to vote too.

The criteria that determined how these historical sites were selected for this process is explained here [5].

Several hours after casting my first vote and I still find myself stuggling with the concept of assigning significance to a historic place based upon the contemporary sentiments of the modern majority.  Granted, that’s not what Partners In Preservation is advocating – all of these sites are already winners for having made it onto the ballot and this election will not, in itself, determine anything beyond a “grant” to the most popular place.  Nevertheless, it would certainly seem absurd if the National Parks Department, in the face of declining revenue, were to hold an online election asking citizens to vote for their favorite national treasure to ensure funding.

Imagine being asked to dissect and then appraise the historical significance of Pearl Harbor relative to Gettysburg. Then again, by offering this very analogy I betray my own message and reveal that in fact I have already placed greater value in Pearl Harbor and Gettysburg as historical landmarks than Tacoma’s Spanish Steps [6] or the 5th Avenue Theatre [7].  In the end, perhaps I’m really just full of myself, and this whole article is just about me trying to fill space on The Melon.

Still, the fact that after two days of voting only one Pierce County historical site - the Skansie Brothers Net Shed [8] – has climbed its way into a top-ten ranking suggest to me that something about this process is sacrilegious.


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URLs in this post:

[1] Image: http://themelononline.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/04/6a00e39331754e88340120a5cd32c2970c-320pi.jpg

[2] Historic Tacoma: http://www.historictacoma.net/

[3] www.partnersinpreservation.org: http://www.preservationnation.org/partners-in-preservation/seattle/vote.html

[4] VOTE: http://r20.rs6.net/tn.jsp?et=1103316460410&s=699&e=001-dnELukueEGdw8POaTxKczK7pr-UUqJak5BvFxSGO3Le3wXI4sCyQsdhjR7hYc1d17m2dYFvWvPwWnvZHvMkQ3OH_lB8AAAWQ46lDPpjBJ-kaqKqZtqSq1Rbrab6tSKhnlRIWTvJJfCy76dhx93TASN64H54DcXLJC0oATy6-l9Ia9jbH3I_9rekHdEOQskQ

[5] here: http://www.preservationnation.org/partners-in-preservation/seattle/about-pip.html

[6] Spanish Steps: http://www.preservationnation.org/partners-in-preservation/seattle/spanish-steps.html

[7] 5th Avenue Theatre: http://www.preservationnation.org/partners-in-preservation/seattle/5th-avenue-theatre.html

[8] the Skansie Brothers Net Shed: http://www.preservationnation.org/partners-in-preservation/seattle/skansie-net-shed.html

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