BBC Series on UK Preservation

The BBC is currently airing a documentary series on English Heritage, a historic preservation (termed “conservation” in the UK) governmental advisory commission.  It’s a rare opportunity to get an inside look at how our British brethren face the day-to-day challenges of preservation, including the ongoing debate about brutalism. Unfortunely, the Guardian claims that this “grimly funny series,” also called “English Heritage,” reinforces stereotypes about elitist preservationistsYou can decide for yourself by watching the show online. Currently the show is only viewable online by those within the UK, but English Heritage has established a webpage to cast light on the issues raised in the program.

The very nature of preservation often has us on the defense, fighting to be heard by developers, city councils, and sometimes the public at large. But we run the risk of taking ourselves too seriously. A TV series exposing the process of preservation, warts and all, can still raise the profile of the overall issue of the importance of place and preserving our built heritage, pushing the dialogue forward. And that’s a good thing.

Night at the Museum

One week ago, on Sunday night around 8:00pm, I  received an emergency call that made my heart stop — an ADT rep told me that the smoke detectors in the Arlington Historical Museum had just been set off, and they had notified the fire department. It was the type of call I’d feared most as Chair of the Museum Building Committee. Our museum and extensive local artifact collection is housed in the historic 1891 Hume School building, by noted Washington architect B. Stanley Simmons.

When I arrived at the museum about 15 minutes later, this was the horrifying scene I encountered, sure to make any museum director’s or board of directors’ blood run cold.

museum surrounded by fire trucks

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