What places matter to you? In my 2008 "year-end giving" I made a point of sending a check to The National Trust for Historic Preservation, one of the organizations I do my best to support every year. One of the perks of membership in the National Trust is a subscription to Preservation Magazine, which is a surprisingly interesting and well-written periodical about places of historical significance, structures being threatened, debates over how best to preserve and protect and make environmentally-sound improvements to existing structures. A recent issue of Preservation, though, contained something I hadn’t seen before: a tear-sheet of white paper on which the words "THIS PLACE MATTERS" had been printed. On the back of the sheet was the following explanation for why that piece of paper was there:
The National Trust exists because place matters and we are here to help people protect, enhance, and enjoy the places that matter to them. From a family home or a neighborhood school, to your local hangout or movie theatre — wherever you live and whoever you are, place matters.
Help us spread the word about the National Trust for Historic Preservation and our mission to save places by participating in our recently upgraded This Place Matters campaign. By showcasing the diverse places that matter to all of us, we can change the way people think about heritage and make a stronger case for preserving it.
What is it? This Place Matters is a photo-sharing campaign in which we ask people to take and post photos of themselves in whatever places matter to them. By sharing these photos, we can spread the word and get even more people involved in the preservation movement.
Living where I do, I couldn’t help but think of lots of places near me that have both historical and literary significance — to me these places matter. And this campaign makes participation VERY easy. So, one cold day this winter, I had my librarian pal Amanda Bock snap a photo of me in front of the place I most wanted to see included in the This Place Matters photo pool: Orchard House.
Orchard House in Concord, Massachusetts, was home to writer Louisa May Alcott and her family from 1858 to 1877. It was in this house that Louisa wrote and set the semi-autobiographical novel Little Women, based on the life she and her sisters shared a stone’s throw from fellow transcendentalists Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau.
Today Orchard House is owned and operated by the Louisa May Alcott Memorial Association (a non-profit founded in 1911) and open to the public for guided tours. The house’s interior still looks much as it did during the Alcotts’ residence, so stepping through its rooms feels eerily like walking through the pages of Little Women — so many of the details mentioned in the book are visible within these walls. My parents brought me here when I was seven and at the time Little Women was my favorite book. Walking through this place, I thought I’d died and gone to Heaven. I felt like I’d slipped right into Jo’s, Amy’s, Beth’s, and Meg’s shoes.
For anyone with an appreciation for history and/or literature, Orchard House is a place that matters. And it owes a debt of thanks to the National Trust, as a blurb on the website explains: "Louisa May Alcott’s Orchard House – Home of Little Women is an Official Project of Save America’s Treasures, a public-private partnership between the White House Millenium Council and the National Trust for Historic Preservation dedicated to the preservation of our nation’s irreplaceable historic and cultural treasures for future generations."
What places matter to you, and how many of them have literary significance? Visit the National Trust’s website to read more about the This Place Matters campaign and consider adding your own photos to the photo pool on Flickr. You can even download your very own sign to pose with, so that passers-by will see you, read it, and hopefully get the message too.