Saturday, August 16, 2008

Preservation in the Balance: Preserve UMass

The current issue of the University of Massachusetts alumni magazine contains a letter from Emeritus Professor Joe Larson, Corresponding Secretary of Preserve UMass, which attempts to strike a balance between concern and hope for the fate of the historic resources on campus.

Larson begins by noting a profound irony:
The Fall 2007 issue featured several articles on the accomplishments of alumni in the fields of historic architecture, restoration, preservation, and adaptive re-use of historic structures. This issue also carried a notice that UMass Amherst has become the first public institution in New England to offer an accredited professional graduate degree in architecture. But concurrent with the publication of this issue, on November 14, 2007, the UMass Amherst campus was placed, by Preservation Massachusetts, on its list of Massachusetts’ 10 Most Endangered Historic Resources.
He ends with a warning but also a note of encouragement:
I submit that it is time for the campus administration to develop an approach to historic preservation that complies with state law and actively engages the expertise of faculty and alumni.
The University's recent hiring of a professional consultant on historic resources--long called for by Preserve UMass, and since mandated by a decision of the Massachusetts Historical Commission--is reason for cautious optimism. Perhaps the University has now demonstrated the ability to learn lessons as well as teach.  In any case, let us hope that the new chancellor will be receptive to messages of concern from the dedicated faculty, staff, students, and alumni who care about their institution's history as well as its future.

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