Historic Preservation Association marks 40th anniversary

Southeast Missouri State University's Historic Preservation Association recently marked its 40th anniversary.

A weekend of events gathered former and current students and culminated in an awards ceremony. Among those honored was Denise Morrison, who accepted the Dr. Mattingly Award, the program's highest honor.

"Once I came into the program, everything just clicked, and I found the thing that I absolutely love to do, and that is what I hope for every one of you," Morrison said at the ceremony.

So, what is historic preservation, and how does it differ from history? Simply, historic preservation refers to brick-and-mortar, buildings, structures and not events or personalities.

To understand what a historic preservation organization does, simply read the words of Arthur Mattingly, who along with Frank Nickell, started SEMO's program.

A 1973 article that appeared in a special publication of the Southeast Missourian, written by Mattingly, highlights what historic preservation is and is not. His unvarnished, emotionless argument for preserving some structures and communities but not others speaks to the "mathematics" of such endeavors.

In his words:

* "Preserving buildings that have architectural value please the eye and engage the mind. As our cities grow more dehumanized, as our suburban dwellings become more redundant, as our supply of old buildings dwindles, we find the older architectural styles becoming more and more important."

* "Each society as it occurs in the long course of time removes or contributes to the sum total of shelter it provides for its many functions. These shelters ... in the total context of the community provide a portion of the evidence of the endurance or the lack of continuity of a society."

* "A historic district is a combination of a great variety of parts, no two alike, constituting an individual place of special quality warranting perpetual care as part of the inbuilt, permanent and irreplaceable values of a community."

Congratulations to the association on four decades of historic preservation efforts.