I recently attended a professional product-launch in Orlando that introduced a huge change in hearing aid technology. In the spirit of the subject, and probably because of the engineers attending from all over the world, the guest speakers were all about technology and the future.
I won't assume you have interest in my field, so I will skip a specific description of the product introduced, but suffice it to say that one of the engineers who presented wakes up in to morning and puts on his hearing aids. When he closes the battery drawer, his kitchen lights go on and his coffee pot starts! How in the world, we ancient ones ask?
Apparently there is a global network out there, encompassing many, many corporations and products, and products-in-the-making just waiting to be designed and connected. Each individual company (like the coffee pot maker, or the hearing aid corporation) reaps the benefit of the entire network by just signing on. No longer does each company have to invent their own everything - they just design a product to connect to the bigger grid. The speakers in Orlando likened this, right now, to being on the verge of the Industrial Revolution. Everything we do will soon be different. And many problems we think are not solvable will be solved within our children's if not within our lifetimes.
At the same time, I am reading Susan Branch's books. I had picked up "Martha's Vineyard: Isle of Dreams" because I love the Vineyard, and what I found was a beautiful, hand painted, quote-loaded and hand-lettered biography of a country artist and cook who ran away to the Vineyard after a bad divorce and stayed for a lifetime, thriving there in every way. I immediately found her follow-up books and am now traversing English villages with her in "A Fine Romance - Falling in Love with the english Countryside." Susan is, as I am , a throw-back - touring, with appreciation, century old villages, the homes of Beatrix Potter, William Morris and Virginia Woolf, while sketching rose bushes that have been growing for hundreds of years, and bedspreads hand-embroidered with french knots. She walks every afternoon on paths walked since the days of King Henry, and is fully engaged in taking tea. (oh Dotti - the tea quotes and tea party ideas alone would make this one of your favorites!)
She learns with us that William Morris started the Arts and Crafts movement in opposition to the Industrial Revolution. He and other artists rejected mass-production "encouraging conservation of the old ways, skills and artistry." He states that "in the middle ages EVERY craftsman was an artist," making each piece individual. Susan thanks the english for modernizing without destroying all the artistry in the homes and gardens, narrow roads and rock walls.
So what are we all to do with all this progress? Embrace it, of course! I am mourning the past but my favorite machines are my camera and my computer and I wouldn't even know you all without them! I wouldn't mind a car that parallel parks itself, or a hearing aid that warms my car on a snowy morning. But please let's not lose our continued respect and appreciation for artistry, individuality and craftsmanship, while finding new ways to express our human souls. Progress has its place, but so do preservation and creativity. Are you with me?
There may have been a time when preservation was about saving an old building here or there, but those days are gone. Preservation is in the business of saving communities and the values they embody.
National Trust for Historic Preservation