The University of Mary Washington’s Center for Historic Preservation has awarded the 2018 Book Prize to Caitlin DeSilvey for Curated Decay: Heritage Beyond Saving. The Center awards the prize each year to an author whose book has a positive impact on preservation in the United States.
“Curated Decay is a beautifully written book that conceptualizes the innovative treatment of historic sites beyond saving,” according to the book prize jury. “This is a personal book that is also universal in its approach: Caitlin DeSilvey hauntingly focuses on attachment to place.”
Published in 2017 by The University of Minnesota Press, the book takes readers to abandoned homesteads, endangered harbors, postindustrial ruins and Cold War test sites.
“We know that not all places can be preserved,” the jury writes. “But if they cannot be preserved, what can be done with them? How do you let things fade away while giving them the respect they deserve? This book gives us space to breathe and have flexibility in our response. DeSilvey provides comfort in this uncomfortable subject matter. She discusses the continuum of change rather than period of significance.”
DeSilvey is an associate professor of cultural geography at the University of Exeter in England. While she focused her book on cases in the United Kingdom, “our own National Park Service and National Trust for Historic Preservation could learn from the examples,” according to the jury. “Decay is universal, and DeSilvey emphasizes that history is not lost but rather appreciated through eventual return to ruin.”
UMW’s Center for Historic Preservation has awarded a Historic Preservation Book Prize since 1989. A jury of preservation academics and professionals select a book that breaks new ground or contributes to the intellectual vitality of historic preservation. Winners receive $500 and are invited to give a lecture at UMW.
This year’s book prize jury included UMW Associate Professor of Historic Preservation Daniel Hubbard and UMW junior Elizabeth Hardy. It was chaired by UMW Associate Professor and Department of Preservation Chair Andréa Livi Smith.
Others on the jury were Gretchen Pfaehler, a senior preservation architect with Beyer Blinder Belle in Washington, DC; Eleni Glekas, director of historic preservation at The Boston Architectural College; and Jeffrey Harris, independent scholar.