Alyssa Conary – Historic Salem, Inc.
In your words… Tell us about your organization, business, initiative.
Historic Salem, Inc. is one of the country’s oldest civic architectural preservation groups. We were founded in 1944 to save the Witch House (also known as the Corwin House) and the Bowditch House from demolition. For 75 years, we’ve endeavored to ensure that the historic resources of Salem are preserved for future generations and that new development complements the historic character of our beautiful city.
Tell us a bit about you and why you do what you do? Share your passions for your business, initiative, organization.
I am finishing up a Master’s Degree in history at Salem State this year. As someone who studies and deeply loves history, there is nothing that can evoke the past for me quite like a historic place. There is something electrifying about standing where people from our past have stood, especially in a city with a history as fascinating and dynamic as Salem’s. I work in historic preservation because I want historic places to survive and flourish and inspire the next generation.
What role do you think your business plays in supporting a more creative community?
I believe that Salem’s greatest asset is its past, for better or for worse. People come to Salem to interact with our history. Once we lose the material remains of that history, we lose an important way for visitors to connect with it. I genuinely believe that the achievement of Historic Salem, Inc.’s mission is in our city’s best interest, not just spiritually, but also economically.
What was the last book you read that made an impact on you?
I love the Oxford University Press’s series of “Very Short Introductions.” I read the one on history by historian John H. Arnold, who did an amazing job of distilling the whole of the discipline into, well, a very short introduction. One thing he said stuck with me: “History gives us the tools to dissent.” History may not truly “repeat itself,” but patterns of human behavior certainly do. Understanding what has happened before equips us to prevent the repetition of particularly ugly patterns. Thinking critically about the past can inform the future.
What’s the one thing people would be surprised to learn about you our your business?
Historic Salem, Inc. runs the beloved Christmas in Salem Holiday House Tour. The tour is our organization’s main annual fundraising event. 2019 will be our 40th Christmas in Salem, and we’re already planning for it.