Preservation, Consciousness, and Action
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The stories that individuals tell about their history and environments relate their own experiences and understanding as an integrated part of daily lives. Narrative analysis of interviews with thirty-one individuals from three communities revealed specific ways that individuals understand history as part of their identity and `self', as part of a socially negotiated community, and as a useable force for community development. Observation of the cultural landscapes in each community and archival research of planning documents, organizational records, and media reporting provided context for the collected interviews. Four specific themes emerged from the analysis: (1) individual consciousness of history challenges what individuals think they know about the past, (2) individual understanding of history relies upon the richness of social interaction to build and negotiate meaning, (3) socially contextualized understanding of history has powerful uses, and (4) preservation results from the use and understandings of history rather than the protection of buildings, material objects, or site. Preservation actions define and maintain identity by structuring the understanding of the past in the present and frame how the future should be. Preservation as an individual action requires rethinking policy, regulation, and practice, but moves to the active creation of identity for individuals and social groups.