Making a List and Checking it Twice: The List as a Tool of Historic Preservation

June, 2002

In this paper I explore the list as a tool for heritage preservation. My focus will be on extent to which a list is useful in and of itself, decoupled from any other forms of intervention. While considerable attention has been paid to the regulatory and incentive mechanisms that typically accompany listing, rather less attention has been paid to the act of listing as a tool in its own right. What is a list for? How do those who use it as a tool of historic preservation conceive of it? Is it merely a designation or is it an award? What are the intended reactions to the fact of listing? What are the actual reactions? What are the issues involved in compiling the list? Can a list be too long? Can it be too short? Is the listing process ultimately self-defeating? Under what conditions? Are there ways in which lists can be designed to increase their effectiveness as a preservation tool?

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