Historic preservation is the effort to preserve, conserve and protect sites, buildings, objects, landscapes and districts of historic significance. Preservation is about deciding what is important, figuring out how to protect it, and passing along an appreciation for what was saved to the next generation.
Preservation is hands on. It does not mean locking away or preventing use of heritage resources; rather, it encourages the sustainable and appropriate use of cultural and heritage assets.
Places Tell Stories
Authentic places of history offer opportunities to experience where real history happened. Stories are the big picture, but also include the personal. Stories recount the challenges and opportunities faced by individuals, communities and nations. Stories are shared history.
These places remind us of where we’ve been and who we are, which helps determine where we’re going. History is a part of who we were, who we are and who we will be.
Historic preservation encompasses a wide range of resources, including houses, neighborhoods, commercial buildings, downtowns, bridges, roads, religious buildings, schools, agricultural and other landscapes, battlefields and traditional cultural properties. Few would dispute the significance of monumental and iconic sites such as ‘Iolani Palace or Puukohala Heiau, which hold obvious significance and where Hawai‘i’s legacy is held in trust for future generations. But less famous sites are also of vast importance to local communities and tell wonderful human stories. Historic preservation is also concerned with commonplace landscape markers that create a sense of place for a community.
Pre-historic and historic objects and places help us understand the world and our place in it. They connect us to the past, but they can also connect us to the present and each other. The sites and objects that are preserved add to the enjoyment, education and inspiration of all.
Historic preservation has been shown to be a key ingredient in stabilizing older communities and bringing citizens together. Historic buildings provide a sense of stability and provide a tangible link with the past that all can experience.
Environmental Benefits of Historic Preservation
Restoring buildings—rather than building new ones, or demolishing existing ones—is environmentally responsible. It is usually more environmentally-friendly to rehabilitate existing structures and maintain and improve existing infrastructure than to simply destroy and replace them.
Razing historic structures has a triple effect on scarce resources, by throwing away materials and their embedded energy; by replacing it with new raw materials; and by expending transport energy for both. Each existing building is an investment of energy, time, and resources. If these structures are simply destroyed, that investment is wasted.
Active historic preservation efforts can help to curb some of the detrimental environmental effects of suburban sprawl, including increased traffic patterns, energy consumption, and environmental degradation. By safeguarding the historic cores of towns and cities and encouraging reinvestment in them, many adverse effects of growth can be greatly reduced.
Educational Benefits of Historic Preservation
The educational opportunities offered by historic preservation are virtually limitless. For students, teachers, and community partners, engaging in historic preservation efforts brings home the importance of such efforts, and reinforces historical education by allowing all those involved to actively participate in its conservation and protection.
Historic preservation takes place in such varied sets and settings that students have opportunities to learn real-world lessons not only in history but also in math, sociology, environmental studies, urban planning, transportation issues, economics, building crafts, and many more disciplines.