One sign of a healthy community is its simultaneous ability to preserve and invent its culture — that is, to conserve its history and heritage while developing new expressions for current times. Often, the concept of preservation is interpreted as meaning stagnation when, in fact, heritage and history can be the basis for innovation and advancement. Moreover, heritage and history are frequently essential sources of meaning that give a place character and resonance.
In a country as diverse and complex as the United States, the histories of many communities are layered and contested. Groups settle and move away, each leaving some remnant of who they were and why they had come to that particular place. Sometimes they leave voluntarily. Sometimes they are forced to leave. Sometimes they do not leave at all.
All of these groups — present and departed, rich and poor — have stories to tell, stories that can be collected, conserved, and celebrated. The articulation of those stories can significantly contribute to the planning process by preserving, celebrating, challenging, and inventing community identity.
About the Authors
Kimberley Hodgson, MURP, MS, AICP, RD is the founder of Cultivating Healthy Places, an international consulting business specializing in community health, social equity and sustainable food systems planning. As a certified planner and health professional, her work focuses on conducting policy-relevant research and providing technical assistance to the public and private sectors related to the design and development of healthy, sustainable places. Hodgson served as co-investigator of a $3.96 million grant awarded to the University at Buffalo by the USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture, Agriculture and Food Research Initiative Food Systems Program. The project, Growing Food Connections, generated knowledge about the effectiveness of local and regional government policies in improving food security in underserved communities, strengthening the resilience of rural communities, and supporting the economic viability of food production. She is the author of Planning for Food Access and Community-Based Food Systems and co-author of Urban Agriculture: Growing Healthy Sustainable Places. Ms. Hodgson holds an undergraduate degree from New York University in pre-medicine, a Master of Science in food policy and applied nutrition from Tufts University, and a Master of Urban and Regional Planning with a specialization in community health and sustainability from Virginia Tech.