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We can speak of a real community as a "community of memory," one that does not forget its past.
Robert Bellah

The 5 Principles: Heritage


Heritage: Connect, Care, Commit

Why does Community Heritage Group emphasize "heritage"? Many worthwhile planning efforts focus on the goals outlined in CHG’s materials – sense of place, livable communities, improved economies – and the literature describing them is extremely helpful. However, one element is often downplayed or even missing: WHY? That is, WHY should citizens care? WHY should governments adopt sustainable policies? It’s not enough to only cite statistics or talk about technical and design matters. What is clear is that the more people know a place’s history and heritage, the more likely they are to commit to its preservation and enhancement.

For example: A key part of heritage is "story" – the town’s history or a neighbor’s past. Because people move so often today, they seldom get to know these stories, and, consequently, many remain uncommitted, uninvolved. One small solution: Some schools conduct oral history projects where students interview elders, people they normally wouldn’t meet. Participants gain a renewed appreciation for their community and neighbors. It works, try it.

Bottom Line: Communities must give citizens a reason to care about their place. Care nurtures participation and participation fosters commitment. Care begins with connecting people to stories, and that’s the realm of heritage. Simply put, knowing the past helps us understand and make a committed connection to the present. Not only that, but heritage is an effective tool for merging best practices from other town planning initiatives, since most talk about "sense of place," and a key ingredient of place is heritage. Finally, CHG emphasizes the need for communities to differentiate themselves from other places (just as business consultants advise products to carve out a special niche), and your heritage is the best tool for distinguishing your town from the one down the road.

HERITAGE AND COMMUNITY HERITAGE GROUP: In everything CHG does, it asks communities to consider their heritage. For example, it’s not only a matter of preserving a historic building, but preserving it in a way that helps augment the town’s story – putting "place" on display.

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