tv National Historic Preservation Act CSPAN May 15, 2016 11:51pm-12:02am EDT
>> 2016 marks the 50th anniversary of the national historic preservation act. next, university of massachusetts amherst professor max page talks about the future of historic preservation in america. we interviewed mr. page at this year's annual meeting of the organization of american historians in providence, rhode island. it's about nine minutes. when was the national historic preservation act passed? >> it was the culmination of years of destruction of national landmarks. it was designed to protect and celebrate the american buildings and landscapes.
>> did it applied to buildings? mr. page: it did not have to, but it ended up focusing on our great works of architecture. it was associated with important parts of our history. >> has that evolved since to protect other areas of our heritage? mr. page: yes. that is one of the interesting things of the last 50 years. it has gone from being focused on things like where george washington slips -- slept too encompassing a much broader range of american history and cultures. that is one of the most exciting things that have gone on. there are now over 100,000 listings on the national register of historic places. that register was created by the national historic preservation act and exploded to worker housing and native american sites and dance halls that were
important to latinos in new york. there is a wide range of places. >> tell me about the support for this movement in 1966. what did it grow out of? was there a realization that finally, this young country had enough history that it was time to start looking at how to preserve it for the future? mr. page: 1966 was the 100th anniversary of the federal antiquities act, which some say is the first preservation act in that it protects archaeological remains on national land. then there is the national trust . the historical preservation was chartered by congress in the -- input high waist there are
cities and huge public housing conferences in our neighborhoods. there was a feeling that things had gone too far. that we needed a federal response. frankly, a federal response and some federal action. there was a counter to the destruction caused by a lot of federal programs. >> were there any leaders who lead this effort in 1966? mr. page: there were a lot of figures. one person is jay jacobs. his 1961 book, "the death and life of american cities," is not about preservation, but it is a widely-red book about why we need to preserve our traditional neighborhoods. she became an advocate for saving pennsylvania station, the new york railroad station that was demolished. that was the spark that led to the preservation act. a lot of writers started to question the urban renewal. >> lyndon johnson was president
in 1966. was he a supporter? mr. page: he absolutely was. it was part of the great society program. it was usually around welfare and other things like that. >> how do you see the historic preservation act fitting into the great society? mr. page: if you look broadly at what that program was meant to be, it was saying we need to lift up the people through a broad range of social welfare programs. we also need to beautify the country and maintain our heritage. it was kind of a broad look at what happened. >> what makes a site historically significant? does the act provide criteria? mr. page: this is one of the most complicated and controversial parts. there are four criteria. if you want to have a building
placed on the national registry, you have to justify it. is it important to an individual, the broad contours of american history, is it important because it is architecturally significant? there are different ways to justify why something is significant. there has been an argument going on for 50 years and will continue on. what is exciting is that lots of groups who are making their place in the american story are saying the history of our people is part of the american story and these sites need to be saved. >> do you have any opinions yourself on what areas of our heritage have the most potential at this moment? mr. page: i think one of the areas that is a real focus of preservation is identifying and saving and interpreting sites of our most painful memories. places of great conflict,
violence segregation, oppression of immigrants. we have to confront those parts of our past. and we are starting to. it is remarkable how young that movement is. just in the past few decades. have we been willing to save places where awful events happened? that is the most exciting part of preservation. you can bring people to those difficult sites and have real conversations about the past and eventually reach reconciliation. >> is there any site in particular that falls into that category that you think deserves special recognition? mr. page: there are dozens of them. one place i am working on now is in richmond, virginia. it is a place that people know because they drive over it on i-95. underneath i-95, the center of richmond, was the second-largest slave market in the united states.
we know about charleston. we know about new orleans. people forget that richmond had this massive slave market. right now, there is an effort to uncover what was there and tell the story of the men and women who were forced to be imprisoned and sold there. many died in the shadow of the confederate white house. it is a real exciting effort to bring that out into the open. >> you have two books that you are working on. can you tell me a little bit about them? mr. page: i have two books coming out that are designed to not necessarily celebrate the i preservation act, but charred the next 50 years. one is an edit collection called "bending the future: 50 ideas for the next 50 years in historic preservation." it brings together some of the most thoughtful people on historic preservation today to offer their suggestions on the
future. another is called "why preservation matters." that is my take on the direction i think the national preservation act and the preservation movement should go in. >> you are the director of the historic preservation initiative at the university of massachusetts at amherst, where you teach. do you have any projects going on at the moment? mr. page: one is richmond, helping to bring to life the pictures and plans -- what the african-american community would like to see in this former slave market site. the others were in holyoke, now a very downtrodden city in western massachusetts. i am trying to bring the latino community there into the story of what holyoke had been an plan for a more economically-just future.
>> thank you very much. >> you are watching american history tv, all weekend, every weekend on c-span3. to join the conversation, like us on facebook. >> today's your day of celebration and you have earned it. voices crying for peace and light because your choices will make all the difference to you and to all of us. >> don't be afraid to take on cases are new jobs or new issues that really stretches your boundaries. >> you spend your summer abroad real ships rather than internships, and the specter of living in your parents basement after this graduation day is not
likely to be your greatest concern. >> watch commencement speeches to the class of 2016 in their leaders,by business politicians, and white house officials, on c-span. next, we will hear from author gene kopelson on the behind-the-scenes mentoring of ronald reagan and the role that dwight d. eisenhower blade in the 1950's -- played in the 1960's. his book is, "reagan's 1968 dress rehearsal: ike, rfk, and reagan's emergence as a world statesman." the discovery institute hosted this program. >> we are joined by dr. gene kopelson. he is a cancer doctor by trade, but also an accomplished historian. he has written about theodore roosevelt, about washington state politics ie