ABSTRACT

How old is old enough? At what point can you gage the historical significance of an event, or measure the impact of an individual’s contribution to a community, or assess the importance of a cultural trend? Artists can be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame 25 years after the release of their first recording. Professional baseball players become eligible for induction into the hall of fame at Cooperstown, New York only five years after their last major league game. The National Park Service recommended that Gerald Ford’s modest brick split-level home in Alexandria, Virginia become a unit of the National Park System less than ten years after the President’s family moved into the White House in the aftermath of the Watergate conspiracy. Ground Zero in lower Manhattan was nominated as a National Historic Landmark (NHL) only a few years after the 9/11 attacks. There is a perception, perhaps influenced by new communication technologies, that events, individuals, and trends are becoming “historic” more quickly than in the past-a process that itself is a reflection of the apparent rapid pace of change over the last decades. David Lowenthal, among others, has commented on the impact of the “vogue for recency,” noting the rise of “instant traditions” as one of important facets for the growth of the “heritage crusade.”1