Over at Preservation in Pink Kaitlin muses about the “Urban Exploration Movement.” She asks:
“Urban Explorers aren’t the typical preservationists, but are their hearts in the right place? Or would something like this have a negative effect? After all, preservation is more than documentation, so this isn’t really the same thing. So how does this fall in relation to preservation? Perhaps it’s the last ditch effort on the part of others while preservationists are dealing with subjects of “significance”
I think the two are clearly tied together, but not all Urban Explorers take the next step to try to preserve the places they’re exploring. On the other hand, I’ve met a surprising number of preservationists who don’t enjoy going into messy or even slightly dangerous places. Those of us who like to both explore and preserve are the union of those two sets. My math teacher would be so proud if he could see me now, spouting off about the Venn Diagram–it finally comes in handy!
Anyway, a few hardy souls are out there in the rural areas doing Rural Exploration. This is my preference, probably because I grew up in the country. The first building I ever watched slowly disintegrate was an old veterinary clinic near our house–my sister and friend and I would go over there and wander around and think we were so cool for not being scared.
A more professional rural explorer is Gaston Callum over at Southland Historic Preservation. Gaston has been wandering the backroads of the South for a while now, taking beautiful and haunting photographs and videos of the vanishing historic landscape of the rural South. You can view his videos over at YouTube–he goes by undweller. But he is also a preservationist, and works hard to save the buildings he’s documented. Gaston was fortunate enough to be able to document the William Powe House in Wayne County, MS, one of the oldest houses in the SE part of the state in Aug 2006, just before, unbeknownst to him, the owner sold it to a salvage guy from Alabama in Sept 2006. Here’s a video of what he saw, including the amazing Federal mantel with paneled overmantel, paneled wainscot throughout with beaded chair rail, original interior paint, etc. It was an amazing building, and I’m especially thankful for the video because I never actually got to see the house in person. Gaston came through Mississippi about 10 years ago and photographed a number of places that have since melted away, so he’s been dedicated to this as his mission for a long time.
I share that passion for the rural and the abandoned, even when they’re 20th century places–like this 1953 school designed by none other than E.L. Malvaney in Merigold, up in the Delta. I like to stop by there every time I’m through and check on it. This is my favorite picture from the last time I was there a year or so ago: