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The following is not my own--I wish it were! Denise Scammon elsewhere says that sustainability "focuses on meeting current human needs without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. Traditionally, the sustainability paradigm encompasses the interactions between humans and the economic, social and environmental aspects of living. I believe adding culture to the already widely accepted three pillars of sustainability--social, environmental, and economic--is important for society to address because ...[it] creates a holistic approach to sustainability."

She goes on to say:

"Most communities tend to focus on the preservation of their own cultures first, and an established community may view newcomers who bring different cultural traditions and values as disrupting what seemed a cohesive and even sustainable local cultural paradigm.

“Yet this is an illusion. The world is in motion; change impacts us in here as well as out there, and before we can begin to talk about ‘cultural sustainability’ as an organic and collective global practice, we must first understand it as dynamic, and work to promote, communicate and practice this dynamic adaptation at the local level.

“But it can take just as much thoughtful and strategic planning to communicate and share ideas about a sustainable LOCAL cultural model as a global one. And it can be hard work to promote a sense of place and identity for everyone in a community--a sense of place that is both consistently flexible and welcoming, yet that thoughtfully--respectfully--adapts itself to the character of existing local cultures.

“But it is a goal worth striving for--if only because of the well-being that follows from communities and individuals--together--creating and enjoying social activities that promote and build a common cultural capital.

"Above all, we should be wary of aiming for a cultural sustainability that too heavily relies on tangibles over intangibles. Cultural capital does not merely inhere in things--objects--buildings--what we see and feel. Cultural sustainability arises from a holistic sense of place and identity, where intellectual and spiritual experiences and values are as important to a whole sense of well-being as heritage buildings and art." [italics added]

Freely adapted with permission from Denise Scammon: "Sustainability and Culture--How Do They Work Together?" (2012)

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Notions about historic museums as little more than irrelevant old attics or ‘jewel-boxes’ can stand in the way of the real enjoyment and appreciation of history. As preservationists—even of a place as beloved as the ‘Nail House’—we have to deal with the prejudice that what we do is passé—that investing good money in the accurate repair of historic structures (even those that might serve the public like this one)--if good at all--is for richer, more blessed communities than ours. Given the demographics of Bridgeton and Cumberland County and the local economy (they say), historic preservation is irrelevant—unwanted—a waste of public resources, public spirit and time. Bah, humbug

We’re out to change that perception—which, in any case, is no longer at the cutting edge of public policy. The movement for sustainable communities has made it good again to think there's a future in the past. And there are real answers to questions about what Bridgeton young people have to gain from learning local history. 

The first is that local history is always more than local. Over the past decade, our own interactions with Bridgeton students and their parents, many from other places, has shown how valuable (if not invaluable) it is for them to know this city was once a hub of progressive activity—proudly dubbed ‘the metropolis of South Jersey.’ They feel good about knowing they are part of a deep dye of cultures, long-woven into the spirit of this place. And as they learn such things and make new creative work that builds on them, they understand they are doing something that serves their present needs even as it enhances the future for others.

We are out to prove that history is always relevant, especially in a democracy. In the fictional world of George Orwell's 1984, there was good reason for what he called the 'oubliette’—the ‘insinkerater’ of truth and historical facts—because it was a world that hated freedom and thrived on thought control. Even now—and for the same reason, erasing the past is precisely what they do in authoritarian regimes. Denying what was once possible is a secure way of frustrating dreams of what might still be possible for the future

Hopefully, that practice does not thrive here—and most crucially, not now! In this way too the local is also global. Knowing just how this place called Bridgeton was transformed over time is a key to understanding the past and potential transformation of every place. And it is not just valuable insight but practical knowledge—a heritage of skills and attitudes and values that we can use to directly impact our futures, near- and long-term. 

And more: It is a heritage that will extend beyond ourselves to our children and (yes, if the species survives) our grand- and great-grandchildren too!

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