Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Picture Imperfect

I was excited to read this in the Howard County Times:

Columbia Exhibit Center returns to preservation group’s ‘endangered site’ list

Of all the things I missed by not growing up in Columbia, the Exhibit Center is the one I’m saddest about. It’s the one I see discussed in online forums the most, with great fondness and nostalgia. Although I am generally not a big fan of “leaving things just the way Jim Rouse left them,” I think there might be some value to recreating that original experience for modern day folks to understand. 

No, I don’t have any concrete ideas as to who would pay for it or what kind of monetizing would keep it going. A place for field trips? Your one stop shop for Columbia swag? It could be a really cool trip into the past. But the future of land around the Lakefront is probably not a good bet for a quirky, nostalgic museum. And I am guessing that, as Lakefront and Downtown development picks up speed, Preservation Howard doesn’t want to see this historically significant structure lost altogether.

When I clicked on the story, by Kate Magill, I was surprised to see a photo of  The Thomas Viaduct. While my knowledge of early Columbia may be incomplete, I’m pretty sure that this is not the Columbia Exhibit Center. I’ll bet there are plenty of folks who don’t know exactly where the Exhibit Center was or even if it is still there. This photo choice doesn’t help.

If we want the community to get excited about preserving a building that was a key part of Columbia’s history, shouldn’t we at least show them what it looks like? (If you scroll down on this page of the CA web site, you’ll see a snapshot circa 1968.)

Columbia: if you already know, then you already know. 

But what if you don’t?  You often have no easy way of finding out. As time goes on Columbia consists more and more of those who don’t already know. Does that matter? If it does, how do we reach out and make Columbia’s past relevant in the present?

A photo might be a good start.

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