Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Book Review of "Beyond Preservation"

Review of One Book

:Report for Historic Preservation Class at University of Nebraska - Kearney; Masters in History Program.:

Taylor Speer-Sims
Report Number Two – Due July 5, 2013
Andrew Hurley, Beyond Preservation: Using Public History to Revitalize Inner Cities.  Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2010.

Beyond Preservation: Using Public History to Revitalize Inner Cities by Andrew Hurley is a book that argues that there are many things that can be done to revitalize areas with inner cities. Professor Hurley gives honest commentary that benefits the field of neighborhood revitalization. Brushing negatives under the rug is not something that is done here. Examples within this text do prove tactics of other biased, pro-revitalizing historians. Hurley included contradictions here as well, though. The great point about this book is that the author gives alternatives to older revitalization techniques that are more effective.
The thesis of Beyond Preservation: Using Public History to Revitalize Inner Cities is stated quite clearly, and is the first sentence in the preface. It states that the premise “is to make historic preservation a more effective instrument for revitalizing inner-city neighborhoods through the strategic use of public history.”[1] Hurley’s thesis is used throughout the book. He has shown what can be done to create better environments conducive to inner city restorative neighborhoods. Hurley presents both old and new ideas within. There is the idea that revitalization of neighborhoods can bring in new business just as others have noted. However, Hurley shows that this can have a backlash with rising taxes that pushes locals out due to race and/or income.[2]
Organized thematically, wording flows with transformations from one chapter to another. There is no crisp end, but a blending into the next theme.  The book starts with some basic background information. It then goes from the big picture to the streets, then narrows even further to an area within a large city with its experiments. The book then narrows even further to talk about research and planning. The subject broadens somewhat to nature, only to narrow again to authority sharing. While at first glance this formatting structure appears uneven, Hurley presents his case very convincingly by writing in this manner.
The book is written very well and articulately. Hurley breaks down his ideas into smaller ones by talking about history and giving examples. There is one chapter that is basically one full example. Chapter three’s “An Experiment in North St. Louis” is important in that it shows what happened in a Missouri location after the federal tax code revision. Lulls after 1986 the state of Missouri stepped up with their own tax incentives that rejuvenated with its twenty-five percent tax credit on “the cost of renovating commercial and residential properties.”[3] Here is where history became popular in a rejuvenated pocket of the city, which was the development project. This full chapter study shows how promising the project originally was, showed its shortcomings and the steps that were made to compensate. The best, in this author’s opinion, was that the committee created a bibliography of the documents, books, and articles that were used in the example’s reawakening.[4] This makes the text more of a narrative then just a schoolbook.
Beyond Preservation is a biased objective outlook. This is because, in a sense, the book gives the reader the idea that there are definite issues about revitalization that occurred in the past. However, the opposite is also true. Hurley shows both pros and cons of the experiences in revitalization within cities. So, in this aspect, the author appears to be quite objective. With the words that the author uses, it seems as though he has written the book with someone of some basic experience in the field. In other words, the reader should be aware of what revitalization is, as well as some of the promises that have been told about its continued success. However, the reader can also have a lot of experience and still be able to appreciate the work. This book is especially great for those that have questions about the blatantly skewed views of other authors. In fact, those authors that are obstinate in their opinion can still read Hurley’s opposing views without becoming angry because Hurley uses details in his writing.
Hurley’s writing style is definitely a strength of the book. Another is the detailed analysis of many of the examples that are used. Hurley’s main strength is that he has presented pros and cons, as well as alternatives to both. It is both a strength and a weakness of the book that it is centered on inner city neighborhoods. The strength is that he has presented himself as a specialist. The weakness is because many may wish to look at this same information for small towns, and they are not covered.
Contemporary historiography points to scientific and detailed study in a straightforward format. Today’s writing also includes minority’s views. The scientific information is not as thorough as it could be given the target demographic. Each point given is quite detailed, and definitely straightforward. There is very little information, however, on minorities. He does include the fact that historic rejuvenation was initially for rich white men. Another inclusion is that many lower income and minority people were displaced due to planned gentifrication, and some of these people did fight back. [5] However, again, Hurley could have been more detailed with investigating these same demographics in more locations, as well as given more of their opinions.
Hurley’s title fits the book precisely, and is very well noted. The bibliography includes primary and secondary sources. There are many personal interviews for the studies that were cited. [6] There is a conclusion, a preface and an index.[7] There are black and white photos, and two figures that represent small maps of the Saint Louis County.[8] The methodology is quantitative in that there are some great studies. Specifically, the theories included are from past experiences, and were not created for the book.
The author, Andrew Hurley, has his information on the back cover. Hurley most likely included the St. Louis experiment because he is a professor there at the University of Missouri, at St. Louis. He has authored two other books about social history. All three have very long titles![9] With Professor Hurley’s enthusiasm, this particular book is great for any one with a little knowledge of preservation.
Beyond Preservation: Using Public History to Revitalize Inner Cities by Andrew Hurley is well written and organized. Contemporary styled, the methodology is quantitative, yet lacks extensive minority studies. The author is a professor in a city where he used a full case study. Honest comparison with biased objectivity is an easy way to describe the opinion within. The great characteristic about this book is that challenges are given along with examples of ways that areas have overcome them. This book truly is a great resource that does exactly what the title indicates.

Hurley, Andrew. Beyond Preservation: Using Public History to Revitalize Inner Cities.
Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2010.

[1] Andrew Hurley, Beyond Preservation: Using Public History to Revitalize Inner Cities. ( Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2010), ix.

[2] Ibid. 58.
[3] Ibid, 59.

[4] Ibid, 91.
[5] Ibid, 20, 29.

[6] Ibid, 203-225.

[7] Ibid, Contents, 227-231.

[8] Ibid, 61, 100.

[9] Ibid, back cover.

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