All Preservation is Local

Former Speaker of the House Tip O’Neil is famously quoted as saying, “All politics is local.” A few years ago the National Trust did an extensive analysis of attitudes toward historic preservation. What did they discover? That all (or nearly all) preservation is local as well. Thus a citizen will become an advocate when her favorite local landmark is endangered, but may be largely indifferent to the same situation 500 miles away.

It was as a direct outgrowth of this discovery that the Trust established their State and Local Partnership program — realizing that a national organization in Washington, even with seven regional offices — simply was not the one to make the preservation case in every local battle. That would take state and local preservation advocacy and education organizations. The Trust’s Preservation Leadership Training program about which I wrote on July 3, is part of that effort — increasing the capacity of state and local preservation activists.Yesterday (July 9) I wrote about a journalist, Jon Zemke and an excellent story he wrote for the Ann Arbor, Michigan focused online publication Concentrate.

Well Jon writes for a couple of sister publications as well, including Metromode which has a slightly larger geographical pervue. So today he has a similar story entitled How Historic Preservation Can Help SE Michigan.

If you read them both you’ll see that there is perhaps a 60% overlap in the content. But the magic of what Jon has done is localizing abstract concepts and numerical factoids and tying them into real people doing real things…next door.

That advances this “all politics is local” effectiveness.

As preservationists we need to meet local journalists (today especially online ones) and give them our basic arguments and the factoids we might have. The good ones like Jon, will take it from there, find the local connection, and effectively help make our case.