There’s an African proverb that says, roughly, “Many small people who in many small places do many small things can change the face of the world.” I first came across the proverb in the form of a mural painted boldly (though slightly covered in graffiti) in German at Berlin’s East Side Gallery.
The East Side Gallery is a stretch of the Berlin Wall that has been preserved in place and repurposed into an open-air art gallery. The gallery is on Mühlenstraße in former East Berlin, and the murals are on the eastern side of the wall.
The proverb can be applied to so many things, but I think it’s particularly fit for the East Side Gallery. One person (small, in the grand scheme of things) painted the saying on a (relatively small) cement wall, literally changing the face of it. The wall, which once stood for oppression, now stands for freedom. The artists who created the gallery preserved an important piece of history, but also altered it.
It’s fitting for historic preservation, too. People get in to historic preservation for different reasons—maybe the technical aspect, the architectural, the economic, the sustainable, or to preserve memories and identities, or out of a desire to build continuity somewhere. Each preservationist working to save one building makes a change in one community. Just as the proverb says, small changes can transform the world.
Those changes can’t happen without the people, no matter how big or small, who push for them. People make preservation happen.
For this May, National Historic Preservation Month, we’re turning that saying into a call-to-action. People, make preservation happen! Is there a building you want saved in your community? An architectural style you always see being ignored? Then…
And if you’re looking to get involved beyond your local community or trying to figure out what to do on your next vacation, Adventures in Preservation has several upcoming projects that need some people to make preservation happen.
Next month, then again later in August, AiP is partnering once more with the Fairfield Foundation, a nonprofit in Virginia dedicated to archaeology, preservation, and education. The 2015 projects will take place at the site of the 17th-century Burwell family manor house, which burned down in the late 19th century. AiP jammers will help with excavation of the site and learn techniques for preservation of brick buildings. Located near historic Jamestown and Colonial Williamsburg, the project is perfect for any American history buff. You can read more or sign up for the project here.
Further afield is the project this August in San Andrés, Ecuador. In partnership with Volunteer South America, participants will work to preserve the convent of San Andrés de Guano, a Franciscan monastery dating largely from the 17th century. In many parts of Ecuador (and the world), the knowledge of how to preserve vernacular architecture through traditional methods has been lost. The two-week AiP session will give jammers the chance to learn skills in a variety of different areas, such as carpentry, mortar, and ceiling repair. Interested? Click here to read more or sign up.
Every set of hands counts.
So, people, are we going to make preservation happen?