This week at the National Trust, we are preparing to host the 2017 PastForward national preservation conference in Chicago. Long-time colleagues and new friends who care about the past and the places that bring that past into the present will gather from all across the country. I suspect that we’ll share thoughts that challenge the conventional wisdom, offer support for a broader understanding of the American story, and come away with a new appreciation for the work that takes place by preservationists and by those who don’t (yet) identify as preservationists.
Why do these people gathering this week in Chicago care about the past? And what’s with that name, PastForward?
In a recent conversation that included Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Annette Gordon-Reed, (The Hemingses of Monticello: An American Family), journalist and author Krista Tippett summed up the answer to those questions with her opening line: “In life, in families, we shine a light on the past to live more abundantly now.”
I think that’s a great summation of why so many of us will gather this week at PastForward. William Faulkner famously said, “The past is never dead. It’s not even past.” In that same spirit, I am of the belief that preservation isn’t about the past. It’s about the continuum of past, present, and future. And we shine a light on all aspects of our past in order to understand “so many paradoxes and so many dilemmas”—to use a phrase by Gordon-Reed—that exist in our country and in ourselves.
That’s what I hope we can bring “forward” this week: an approach to understanding the past that helps us live more abundantly today. And if you cannot be with us in Chicago, please be sure to check out the live-streaming of several of the TrustLive sessions (think TED talks for preservation with some amazing speakers).
Have a great week.
More to come…