Just as interesting as what we preserve, I am fascinated by the efforts to reconsider that which was once preserved by a previous generation, and now, removed by the present generation. What about our perception of value has changed? How did these considerations of value and social capital shift? What are we left with when perceptions shift?
How our imaginations maneuver through these evolutionary, murky layers of social importance – (and how the imagination originally justified preservation and then, eventual destruction, of the very thing we preserved) – is the real story of our humanity.
Preservation is not simply about artifact and matter. At it’s core (the intent) preservation is our way of delaying the absolute destiny that all things will disappear and the fear that our personal and collective perception of the world will change.
Preservation is not about stasis, it is actually about managing change.
Occasionally the darkness of context is illuminated, and we get to see what stories exist outside of the “bright shiny-object of preservation”.(left) New York State’s Willard Psychiatric Hospital attic (1995) showing the original placement of hundreds of discarded suitcases that were once owned by anonymous patients. (right) a Photo by Claire Yaffa (“children with AIDS”, 1990’s) illustrating the burial containers of children who died anonymously from AIDS and were buried in New York City’s “potters field”, Hart Island.
The process of honoring through preservation (either an artifact or a legacy) is fluid and in many cases leads to a re-assessment of the original motivation. (left) Following the Battle of Bagdad, April 9, 2003 removal of the Firdos Square statue of Saddam Hussein. (middle) After details of extensive sexual abuse by famed Penn State football coach, Joe Paterno, a statue depicting the coach was removed from the Stadium grounds. (right) Many statues of J. Stalin were removed following the leader’s death in 1953. Removal of statues depicting his likeness continues even today.
Re-assessment of preservation legacies have locational components and take on opposite perspectives. Seen here (left) A US Confederate statue is layered with current sentiment graffiti “Black Lives Matter”, while (center) another Confederate memorial is labeled “murderer” & “KKK” by social activists. (right) In comparison, the gilded Union General Sherman statue in the heart of New York City is lovingly cared for and re-gilded every few years. Clearly, if this statue were erected in Atlanta following the US Civil War, it would have been defaced or destroyed many decades ago.
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