I’ve always been intrigued by the assertion, “The more things change, the more things stay the same.”
The quote is attributed to the 19th century French author Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr, and I had to write an essay proving or disproving this idea when I was about 17 years old for one of those standardized tests that kids take before college. I’m sure what I wrote back then is not worth remembering, but now that I’m much older, and theoretically a little wiser, I’d like to ponder this premise again and relate it to historic preservation.
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I think one of the key words in the statement is the word “things.” There are many definitions found in the dictionary for this word (in the singular). One is “an inanimate object” and another quite different definition is “the aim of effort or activity.” We can all agree that inanimate objects change all the time. The moment you walk out of the cellphone store, you could upgrade to the newer version that was released an hour earlier. Fashion is fickle — bell bottoms in one moment, out the next and then in again. (I’m hoping knickers will never make a comeback.) Computers, medicine, news, research, technology — it seems that these fields change daily.
I think most things are created to change. And most things worth creating — big things, small things, simple things, complex things — have been created to make our lives better. They make hard things easier. They help us connect with one another. They contribute to leading happier and more fulfilling lives.
Because of these things, we can leave the world a better place for those who come after us. We can make a difference.
What stays the same is this: Underlying almost every motivation for creating and changing things, even our reasons for changing personally, is the ever-constant human drive for positive purpose and meaningful impact.
What does this have to do with historic preservation? Well the thing is, at Historic Routt County, we think our efforts make our world a better place. Places change, and people come and go.
By saving the places that contribute to telling Routt County’s story, we help protect what matters, those intangible things that make where we live so compelling.
Our focus on historic preservation helps strengthen the roots of the values, ethics, stories and culture that always should run deep and wide throughout the entire county. We pull the lessons of the past forward along with the powerful unchanging principles that define who we were, so that we each can add our own complementary and extraordinary page to our county’s story.
A big part of Historic Routt County’s story is that we are helping to build a sustainable community.
Fred Hodder, an advisory board member for Historic Routt County, best describes our positive impact: “We sponsor and support projects that are central to the future positive development of Routt County. We back projects that hire local skills, use local youth, attract state and corporate funds as incoming investment, encourage companies to use existing infrastructure and draw more tourists and athletes to the county, now and for the ongoing future.”
In short, we save inanimate things — buildings and places. In so doing, we trust that we are doing the right thing to positively and significantly impact our community and beyond.
So Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr was right. Things change all the time, but our main thing of making the world a better place stays the same. It’s all about putting things into perspective.
Meg Tully is a certified association executive, executive director of Historic Routt County and owner of Nonprofit Know How, which provides services to nonprofits of all shapes and sizes.