Sunday, August 25, 2013

Preservation is About Looking Forward

(As with many things on this blog – these are minimally processed thoughts. I’m throwing them up on the wall and seeing what sticks. They were initially triggered by a tweet I saw a while back which included the words something along the lines of “preservation is about looking back, art is about looking forward.”)

I chose those words as my title for this post Preservation is About Looking Forward for a few reasons: First because I believe they are true; Second, because I believe they are not true; Third, because I believe they need to be true.

Preservation is about looking forward = true.
Preservation is about taking objects and pushing them, sometimes kicking and screaming, into the future. The past is past and we can’t do anything to change the past. Preservation professionals make certain decisions and take certain actions to shape what types of resources future users will have access to, and therefore help shapes what the future will look like.

Preservation is about looking forward = not true.
Preservation is about looking toward and treasuring the past. Preservation is about old things and memories. Preservation is not about creating new things, but about keeping our heritage alive and not forgetting it. Preservation is not about new fads, but about past traditions. Preservation is about history.

Preservation is about looking forward = needs to be true.
Preservation needs to be about looking forward if it wants to become more, and not less, relevant. (And with relevance comes attention, and participation, and influence, and funding.) Preservation professionals need to see themselves as creative; generating new things, new contexts, new relationships which create new, future knowledge.

Preservation is about looking forward is not necessarily a call to change what we do, but perhaps a call to change how we think about what we do.

Or not.

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