Focusing on the Future
By James H. Schwartz | From Preservation | March/April 2011
We were having lunch in the magazine office last week when our art director mentioned her college library. That led to a conversation about card catalogs (sigh), reference books, librarians, and the mimeographed syllabus. And it dawned on me: Most of the younger editors sitting around the table had no earthly idea what we were talking about. The Internet has transformed the art of research—and our culture—so radically, it's easy to forget how new it is.
The same might be said about Americans' commitment to sustainability, a fact driven home by the stories in this issue of Preservation. Not long ago, compiling a lineup of stories about sustainable preservation was challenging. Today we have more compelling tales to tell than pages in the magazine.
I know from personal experience that Americans who have long cared about preservation are rushing to capitalize on new technologies. Last Thanksgiving I visited friends in New Hampshire who had just completed a host of repairs and improvements recommended by an energy auditor wielding an infrared heat gun. Sudip Bose, our executive editor, recently bit the bullet and replaced the aging furnace in his house with a high-efficiency model recommended by the local power company. (It will pay for itself in savings within a few years.) My best friends in Alabama invested in an irrigation system for their 1926 Forest Park home, designed to reduce evaporation and limit water consumption. And me? I've become an evangelist for weather stripping, insulation, and compact fluorescents. (If you're tired of hearing about the importance of replacing incandescent bulbs with CFLs, do not sit next to me at a dinner party.)
In the 1930s my Aunt Bea restored a historic Connecticut cottage called Hobby Farm, 40 miles north of New York City. The energy-saving enhancements at her disposal were limited to storm windows, fireplace dampers, and towels rolled under doorways to reduce air infiltration. But those were about it. Her house remained extremely chilly in the winter months, and we often heard about the rising cost of the oil bill. Eventually, Aunt Bea just gave up and started spending winters in Arizona.
I'm certain she would be ecstatic to read about the advances and innovations chronicled in this issue, and try some of them at home. I know just what she would say: "Change doesn't worry me, darling. I was always ahead of my time ... You can ask any one of my husbands."
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