25 April 2014

cultural heritage

There was an an article in the paper I was looking at while eating breakfast this morning that talked about damage to Palmyra, Syria, from the Syrian Civil War. War wreaks its havoc on our cultural heritage and, once gone, the objects cannot be replaced. I feel especially sensitive about Palmyra since the illustration of egg-and-dart molding that I shared with the tattoo artist before he inked my arm was from Palmyra.

One of the 50th-anniversary articles on the World's Fair of 1964-1965 reminded me that the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey archives had been destroyed in the 2001 attack on the World Trade Center.

And on it goes: Nineveh used by U.S. as military camp during Iraq War; the destruction of the National Library in Sarajevo. Just a couple from recent history. Someone said not too long ago that while a lost generation of people is horrifying, there is the possibility of recovery. Lost archives, artifacts, and buildings are gone forever. Some documentation or reconstruction may give us a sense of the original. Some reconstructions are an interesting riff on the original.

Of course, it's not only war, terrorism, and vandalism that destroy our heritage. We sometimes willfully take down Pennsylvania Station in New York City or the Prentice Women's Hospital in Chicago. I don't consider myself a knee-jerk keep-it-all preservationist anymore. In most building demolitions, we at least think about whether the building, parts of it, or the stuff in and around it should be retained or reused.

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