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Keeping Time: The History and Theory of Preservation in America

In Keeping Time: The History and Theory of Preservation in America, William J. Murtagh explores the evolution of the preservation movement in the United States. The book delves into the historical and cultural contexts that have shaped preservation and the various approaches to it over time.

Murtagh begins by discussing the early attitudes toward preservation in America, which were primarily focused on the preservation of historic buildings and landmarks. He goes on to examine the preservation movement in the 19th century, which was largely driven by a desire to preserve the physical reminders of American history and culture.

The author then explores the emergence of the modern preservation movement in the mid-20th century, which was characterized by a more holistic approach to preservation that focused on the preservation of entire neighborhoods and cultural landscapes. He also discusses the challenges faced by preservationists during this time, including the demolition of historic buildings and the rise of urban renewal programs.

Throughout the book, Murtagh emphasizes the importance of understanding the underlying principles and values that have shaped preservation in America. He also highlights the various debates and controversies that have surrounded preservation over the years, including issues related to authenticity, historic accuracy, and the role of government in preservation efforts.

Ultimately, Murtagh argues that preservation is not simply about the physical preservation of buildings and landmarks, but rather a complex and dynamic process that involves the preservation of cultural heritage, community identity, and social memory. He asserts that preservation must be approached in a thoughtful and deliberate manner, taking into account the many competing interests and values that are at play in any preservation effort.

In conclusion, “Keeping Time” provides a comprehensive overview of the history and theory of preservation in America. It is a valuable resource for anyone interested in the preservation of cultural heritage and the built environment, as well as those who are interested in the social and cultural forces that have shaped preservation over time.

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