A little common sense needed when preserving the past

March 15, 2011 

The African country of Mali has villages that contain 150-year-old mud and brick houses that have mud floors, no screens and no showers -- I think you have the picture. The houses have cone-shaped roofs, and from a distance look like something not of this world.

These unusual dwellings have become a pain for those who live in them because they have been put on a heritage list by UNESCO, the cultural arm of the United Nations. Once houses are put on this list, they cannot be altered from their original design. The thought is that tourists should be able to enjoy the unique character of buildings like these.

Materials needed to patch and restore the houses have become scarce and very expensive. Not to mention, the art of construction has fallen from favor with the young, and collapses are a threat in rainstorms.

Citizens and cultural groups want to modernize these houses without compromising history, but UNESCO guidelines prohibit many of the alterations the homeowners want. Residents think they should be allowed to live comfortably and not be forced to live in ancient ways. What good is helping to keep or restore a spot that no one wants to live in? It would produce a ghost town that would not be welcoming at all.

Guests come to Bluffton to see the charming Church of the Cross and the surrounding area -- it is a wonderful source of pride for all of us. Preservationists have to have courage and strength to promote their decisions, but there should be a speck of common sense thrown in.

It is a difficult job juggling all of the ins and outs of preservation here and around the world as more emerging countries wake up to a modern life.

  • If you've always wanted to run away to sea, you can hop in your car and drive over to Savannah before March 28. There, docked on the Savannah River, you will find the tall ship Lynx.

    The Lynx is a 122-foot-long, 94-foot-high reproduction of a schooner that was used during the War of 1812. The ship will participate in events along the East Coast in the United States and Canada commemorating the 200th anniversary of the War of 1812. The ship carries a full-time crew of eight. Tours are held each day except for Mondays. You also can take a public tour under sail. There is a fee for each of the tours. The ship is docked at 200 River St.

    Go to www.privateerlynx.org for more information.

  • Your chance for stardom is here. Coastal Chevrolet, at 5905 Ogeechee Highway in Savannah is holding a talent search in the coastal area.

    They are trying to find just the right person to star in their television commercials. The opportunity is open to people 19 and older. You might win a fabulous prize of a 2011 Chevrolet Silverado and to appear on television, of course. To register for the auditions, go to www.CoastalTalentSearch.com. Deadline is April 6, and a winner will be selected May 19.

  • David Harter, president of the Hilton Head Island Sportfishing Club, will present "A Fisherman's Guide to Seafood in Our Lowcountry Restaurants" at 11 a.m. Friday at the Coastal Discovery Museum at Honey Horn on Hilton Head. What a great time this will be with the fisherman who knows it all. Reservations are required. The fee is $5 a person. Details: 843-689-6767, ext. 223

  • Would you like to learn how young ladies were expected to act in the 1740s in nearby Charleston? I think you would.

    The Coastal Discovery Museum at Honey Horn on Hilton Head Island invites girls 6 and older to "Lessons with Mistress Mary Hext," which will include lessons in deportment, handwriting and English country dancing with "Mistress Hext." Miss Hext ran a boarding school for girls in Charleston.

    The lessons are from 2 to 3 p.m. Saturday at the museum. Reservations are required. Cost is $12 a person. Details: 843-689-6767, ext. 223

    Babbie Guscio is the social columnist for The Bluffton Packet. She can be reached at The Store on Calhoun Street.

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