How Do We Determine What to Preserve?


In this RadioLab podcast, the hosts visit The Explorer’s Club – a Manhattan mansion filled with objects from the greatest adventures of the 20th century (everything from a piece of the wing from the first Wright Brothers airplane to a flag which was taken to the moon)! The podcast tells many similar stories which all ask the same fundamental question:

“Why do we choose to preserve some things, but not others?”

As you listen to the podcast, consider the following reflection questions:

  • We can’t preserve all of the objects of the world. What are the criteria by which we should evaluate the significance of objects and determine whether they should be preserved?
  • Are these evaluation criteria subjective? What in your unique experience biases you towards the criteria you’ve selected?
  • How do we determine which cultural resources to preserve?

Listen to the Podcast

While you’re welcome to listen to the entire podcast, the relevant portion about The Explorer’s Club starts at 1:05 minutes and ends 8:00 minutes.

A transcript for this podcast is also available.

Dig Deeper

The National Register of Historic Places is the official list of the Nation’s historic places worthy of preservation.

After listening to the podcast, consider how your personal criteria for what should be preserved compares to the National Register of Historic Places’s criteria for significance.

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