The New Preservationists

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image by Vince Streano, CORBIS

Preservationists are forever scrambling to rescue the detritus of history. Usually, at the center of the struggle is a home, a building, or some other landmark. As Christopher DeWolf reports in Maisonneuve (Summer 2008), though, there’s an emerging protest movement in Hong Kong that–while it has failed to save a single local landmark from persistent development–has succeeded at preserving “living heritage” through posters, drawings, and photographs of the city. Inspired by the idea, a local store is selling messenger bags decorated with photos of traditional apartments, folders decorated in old newspaper classified ads, and more. “A building can be preserved, like a pig’s head in formaldehyde,” DeWolf writes, “but its transitory occupants cannot. Perhaps the best way to preserve cities is to document them. Vital, often intangible, heritage exists in the present, not as part of some nostalgic past.”

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