Preserving the Past

Recently I was contacted by fellow blogger Hannah, of Just Peachy Darling, about a project she was working on. She was asking several people to express why they are interested in history and how they are preserving the past. Since this subject is so near and dear to me, I was eager to get on board with this and put in my two cents.

What is preservation? For me, preservation means safe-guarding the past for future generations. We do this in several ways, and I certainly do a heck of a lot of it, if I do say so myself, albeit in my own, small way.

I feel that I have always had a strong tie to the past, mainly because of my parents.  My parents were in the antique business and filled our homes with antiques, I also grew up attending antique shows and thrifting. I understood at an early age the importance of antiques, from their cultural value to their monetary value.  I also grew up going to museums, and understanding the historical context in which the items in our home came from.

While my parents loved the turn-of-the-century items, I thrived on the mid-20th century items with their killer style, and quickly amassed quite a collection of vintage furnishings before my vintage wardrobe ever grew. I quickly learned what I was loving was called “mid-century modern” and that there were specific designers that I really admired, such as Eero Saarinen, and my bookshelves began to fill with books about designers and architects.  Vacations in my family usually meant driving, and we enjoyed taking the back roads of America, and as I enjoyed photography as well, I began using my dad’s old 35mm Minolta to shoot images of abandoned Americana.  All of these acts, from buying vintage furniture to photographing old buildings and signage were a way in which I felt I was helping the preservation front. I was saving items from the land fill or those crazed shabby chic ladies with their paint brushes loaded up with crackle paint.  I was also capturing images of faded painted signs, broken neon, and dilapidated buildings to share with those around me, while also educating myself on the imagery and design I loved so much, with facts at the ready to educate those around me too.

As my home was now full of vintage furniture, my closet began to shift too.  I already had a handful of vintage pieces, some of which were my mother’s, and soon my high school duds were traded at places such as Buffalo Exchange for true vintage pieces.  And like my interest in the designers of the furniture, I attempted to learn about what styles of vintage clothing I liked, all while also earning my degree in history and learning about the circumstances that all my furniture and clothing bore witness too.  I love learning about history because it showcases how we have changed over the years, what we have lost, what we have learned and reminds us of things we need to work on.

Additionally you can’t dress vintage or decorate your home in vintage housewares without raising a few eyebrows and getting a few questions.  This is another way in which I think I am aiding in preserving the past.  I fill my home with objects from the past, I am keeping them safe, but I am also using them, and in doing so opening a small doorway to the past, especially when I interact with others who are unfamiliar with the periods I so enjoy.  Questions on the street about my attire lead to conversations not just about the past, but about the current economy as well.  For example, when I am asked why I dress in vintage, I can easily discuss the quality and fit of vintage garments, and how they compare to today’s garments. I can discuss how war affected fashion.  I can also mention that in wearing vintage garments that my money goes toward a small business or that I am recycling.  People may become inspired to learn more about the current clothing industry or pursue vintage themselves.  When people visit my home, they will see items of superior design and craftsmanship, and how function and style can actually go hand in hand.  All of this leads to discussion, which leads to education.

When we are able to see the past, whether with a building or with a garment from a certain time period, we are instantly inspired, we want to ask questions, and questions can lead to learning.  People can learn about the importance of quality and the economy and history.  A dress from the 60s may jog someone’s memory about that time their mother participated in a sit-in. Vintage items are instant conversation pieces, they can lead to the most intense and informative discussions and without these items to jog our memories, we are lost. Without them we are without reminders of what we should strive to achieve once more, and what we still need to work on.  For me, I see myself as a little museum, I see my home as a little museum too. We each have artifacts and are informative. Visual cues and sharing information helps make this world a better place.  This is why preservation matters.

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