Archive for the ‘Preservation’ Category

Service of Leave it Alone, Already II: Why Buy a Landmark if You’re Going to Destroy It?

Thursday, June 27th, 2019

Booth Cottage Photo:

I complained, in the 2016 iteration of this title, about the person who bought a Brooklyn brownstone I once coveted that had all of the original plasterwork that they tore out. “Couldn’t they have bought another house?” I thought after I visited the remodeled, stripped down atrocity on a house tour. That post addressed physical attacks on public buildings—The Waldorf Astoria and Grand Central Terminal.


I had a similar sinking feeling when reading Michael J. Lewis’s article, “Bulldozing a Modernist Landmark” with subhead “The looming demolition of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Booth cottage is the latest example in a long history of our culture’s disregard for its architectural past.” The owner’s complaint about the Glencoe, Ill. property: it’s a small house on a big lot. So pick on another property!

Lewis wrote: “People are usually surprised to learn that America’s historic buildings, no matter how significant, go unprotected unless there is a local preservation ordinance. Even those ordinances are typically toothless, since they can be overruled for reasons of ‘hardship,’ a category so elastic that the inability to maximize the profit potential of your property can count.


“As it happens,” Lewis continued, “there is a preservation ordinance in Glencoe, but the Sherman M. Booth cottage has been given only ‘honorary’ landmark status. That means that demolition can occur, but the town can mandate a 180-day stay of execution. For the moment, the cottage still stands; behind-the-scenes negotiations might save it yet.”

Lewis cited statistics kept by the Frank Lloyd Wright Building Conservancy which report that only two of Wright’s structures have been demolished with 380 existing, so losing a third may not be the big deal I think it is. Your thoughts? Why are Americans so blasé about their architectural history?


Service of Storage & Preservation

Thursday, August 25th, 2011


How do you decide what to toss and how do you store and preserve the keepers? I’ve often written about my photos. The digital ones currently live in my computer. Like anyone’s mine could crash at any moment. I organized the snaps shot before digital in acid-free boxes and kept the negatives, though who knows why as I have no clue who can make dupes from negs these days.

A friend of ours worked at an ad agency years ago. One of her colleagues was Andy Warhol. Who knew that she and the others should have kept his sketches and first-run designs? In a compact apartment, where would she have stored this and all of her own and her husband’s stuff besides? Would the paper have disintegrated and the images faded in any case?

dsc01442My husband collects old master drawings–the practice pieces that 15th to 18th century artists drew before setting oil to canvas or paint to church walls or simply to capture movement or scenery in their daily travels. I have always wondered how they or others knew to keep these things. Ours are preserved in frames for the purpose and kept out of direct sunlight. God help them if there’s a fire.

Kari Kraus wrote “When Data Disappears” in a recent New York Times opinion piece. She noted that author and futurist Bruce Sterling gave his papers to the University of Texas and that’s just what they got–papers–because as Kraus put it, “digital storage is perishable, perhaps even more so than paper. Disks corrode, bits ‘rot’ and hardware becomes obsolete.”

piles-of-booksKraus shared fascinating facts. Some estimate that every year we generate almost 30 million times the amount of digital information contained in all the books ever published: 1.8 zettabytes.

As for preservation solutions, Kraus mentions migrating data which she equates with translating Japanese to Hungarian. She adds that it isn’t just a matter of copying files and warns that you generally lose data. Then there’s emulation which she defines as a modern computer designed “to act like an old one.” This won’t work forever because soon the modern computer is out of date.

early-computerShe feels that the most promising efforts, which she calls “digital curation,” [as compared to digital preservation that doesn’t work] are made by video gamers. She wrote: “In the face of negligence from the game industry, fans of ‘Super Mario Bros.’ and ‘Pac-Man’ have been creating homegrown solutions to collecting, documenting, reading and rendering games, creating an evolving archive of game history. They coordinate efforts and share the workload – sometimes in formal groups, sometimes as loose collectives. Nor does the data just sit around. These are gamers, after all, so they are constantly engaged with the files. In the process, they update them, create duplicates and fix bugs.”

After reading Kraus’s article I spoke about the topic of digital preservation with my husband who observed: “And some think that by putting all our health information on computers we’ll streamline healthcare.” It seemed like such a good idea when I first heard of it but unless patients are 98, is it? If the real purpose is to create perpetual work for thousands, that’s another matter.

How often do you weed out memos to clients and bosses? Are you a digital Collier brother? How do you preserve photos and copy? Are you concerned about losing material?


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