Heritage vs History

Robyn M Driscoll TM231 Heritage vs. History As a society we are always looking to the past for many reasons, to learn from our mistakes, successes, experiences, to have a better understanding of where you come from, the list goes on. Society takes a personal view on what is or isn’t historical and what makes something important or not. There are two ways to distinguish the past, history and heritage. The history tends to be the cold hard facts, the truth with no emotion, no personal reference. Heritage has more depth and relation to certain events, people, and society.

There are many examples of this throughout history, architecture is no exception and when it comes to preservation these issues tend to come up and decisions have to be made about what is important to remember and pass on to next generations. The past tends to be thought of historical and accurate in context, but what about those stories your grandfather told about walking ten miles in the snow uphill to get to school, although it may not be completely the truth there may be some truth scaled down within the statement.

Lowenthal describes the past as home and safe, a sense of nostalgia. Nostalgia is where people can relive the past; he describes this as a tangible connection to the past. With architecture that tangible piece can be the structure itself. David Lowenthal talks about history as true hard facts with proof of how and why. This is a much more educated description of what happened and what makes something historic. Just like anything else preservation can be subjective from person to person, as can the definitions of history and heritage.

John Brinkerhoff Jackson describes heritage as collecting items for association with the past of historical events. He states that heritage can be embellished to the point where you can’t see the original anymore. He refers to this as an interpretation of history. Jackson states that “history means less the record of significant events and people that the preservation of reminders of a bygone domestic existence and its environment. ” What is it that we are rying to preserve or what is the point we are trying to get across? What makes a structure important enough to save from the wrecking ball? Both philosophers make valid efforts and points as to the definitions of history and heritage and why we should or shouldn’t preserve a building based on its history of heritage. Everyone has their own opinions and ideas of what makes something important and as long as someone can make a valid argument as to why something is or isn’t important, people who care are going to listen.

There are many events in history that need or want to be remembered, being able to approach a structure or monument and experience a feeling and have something tangible to connect it to helps people understand and appreciate an event of time in history that would never have been able to be experienced otherwise. Connecting a structure to its historical or heritage value is important; a great example of this is the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, DC (by architect Maya Lin, 1982).

Maya Lin’s vision for this project was to honor the men and women who gave their live in Vietnam. The site of the memorial is designed to relate to the orientation of the Lincoln monument and the Washington memorial uniting it physically and historically to the site. Now, this is not a preservation project but it is showing the link between history and its importance of being remembered. This proves history as an historical association, this monument is all fact, there are no stories on the wall, it is filled with names of people lost to the war.

People, whether in the war or not can appreciate and get a feel for the impact of history, the tangible connection is the sheer size of the monument, making you feel overwhelmed, the amount of names also invoking the feeling of overwhelming and devastation. The orientation of the site shows thought to the design in relation to the historical meaning and relation to our nation’s capitol this event was. Heritage although not getting the vote for being completely accurate has equally interesting results.

An example of architecture and historical stories is the frieze on the Parthenon in Greece. The image has been translated as two processions with a central celebration for the Olympian gods as a dedication to the goddess. This is an important structure in history that gets its historical reference from a deteriorated sculpture of gods and goddesses. A nice depiction of the past, but is it all truth? There is truth to some of it, that is why it is there, but will we really ever know without written text with examples and proof that the entire historical context is true.

Historical context is controversial and opinionated as to what is or isn’t important to remember, commemorate, or restore. Although Lowenthal’s and Jackson’s have different variations of their definitions they both feel that either way some structures are worth saving. Works Cited Jackson, John Brinkerhoff. The Necessity for Ruins and Other Topics. Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 1980. Lowenthal, David. Fabricating Heritage, History ; Memory, History ; Memory Volume 10, Number 1(1998) http://www. ncient-greece. org/art/parthenon-frieze. html http://www. mayalin. com/ ——————————————– [ 1 ]. Lowenthal, David. Fabricating Heritage, History & Memory, History & Memory Volume 10, (1998) p 89-111 [ 2 ]. Jackson, John Brinkerhoff. The Necessity for Ruins and Other Topics. Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 1980. P 5-24 [ 3 ]. www. mayalin. com [ 4 ]. http://www. ancient-greece. org/art/parthenon-frieze. html

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