We recognize our past—history and heritage—as crucial to who we are (Grenville, 2007; Lowenthal, 2008; Nietzsche, 1874/1980). Significant regulatory and popular effort is expended in protecting places, buildings, and behaviors that link us to this past. International governance organizations recognize free association with history as a fundamental human right (e.g., Blake, 2011). Tangible representations of the past (e.g., objects, buildings, landscapes) are preserved as reminders of this past. Given the broad agreement that connections to the past are important parts of human existence, what are the connections between individuals’ security in knowledge of their own history and measures of public health?
The literature connecting preservation and public health is neither direct nor voluminous. A search for literature revealed a gap in knowledge about ways that preservation and public health relate. While some literature demonstrates possible connections between the two fields, no identified articles argue for the connection. Two examples from the preservation literature (Appler, 2015; Kearney & Bradley, 2015) explain situations where preservation issues have affected public health concerns, but do not acknowledge public health as part of their discussion. This exploratory essay briefly outlines core principles of public health and a review of literature from the public health and preservation and heritage fields that aligns with these principles. The essay concludes targeted research into the relationship preservation-public health is needed.