AAPB Debuts New Exhibit “Protecting Places: Historic Preservation and Public Broadcasting”

Courtesy of the Library of Congress.

The American Archive of Public Broadcasting (AAPB) has launched a new digital exhibit titled “Protecting Places: Historic Preservation and Public Broadcasting.” Historic preservation is more than just saving old buildings from the bulldozer. Histories can be shared or silenced depending upon the preservation of places that represent a larger story. AAPB Digital Exhibits Intern Kara Zelasko uncovers how people have used public broadcasting to advocate, negotiate, or protest historic preservation efforts across America. Kara is currently a public history graduate student at Northeastern University interested in exploring history as a tool for placemaking and community engagement.

Using a diverse range of public radio and television content from 1950 – 2012, more than 100 digitized, historic public broadcasting programs, local news reports, radio call-in shows, and interviews document the important relationship historic structures have fostered between people and their neighborhoods. These visual and audio records digitized and preserved by the AAPB reveal the ways people have used or rejected preservation in the ever-changing American landscape to share local and national histories, illuminating the ways Americans have envisioned their communities through buildings and sites that connect past to present.

“Protecting Places: Historic Preservation and Public Broadcasting” is accessible online at http://americanarchive.org/exhibits/historic-preservation.

Listen to sample recordings from the exhibit…

Bill Inge, host of WILL’s radio call-in broadcast “Focus,” asks Richard Moe “how do we decide what buildings are worth saving?” Moe, then president of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, answers that the decision essentially lies within the community and what will best serve its current and future needs. This answer underlines the struggle historic preservationists encounter between saving a building to share the past while also serving the community of the present. Listen to the full episode here.

This segment from New Jersey Nightly News explores the Victorian buildings that have come to define Cape May’s community. The interview reveals how Cape May, like many other places, have come to recognize the economic incentive in preserving buildings and landscapes that speak to the neighborhood’s character. Watch the full segment here.

This interview from South Carolina Educational Television’s “Connections” discusses the disappearing cabins of enslaved people in South Carolina.  Historic preservation can be a way to uncover marginalized stories that have been previously ignored. This record and others found in the exhibit reveal how histories have been both erased and uncovered in the American landscape over time. Watch the entire episode here.