Great American Institutions

The tower of Big Ben, London.What constitutes a “great institution?” I guess the best definition of a great institution is something that is a “characteristic and persistent feature in social or national life or habits.” Back home I’d think the pub could be considered a great British institution, steak and kidney pudding, fish and chips, Big Ben, the Tower of London, Marks and Spencer, etc, etc …

Part of the joy of coming to live in a different country is discovering those things that represent the character, social history and traditional habits of a place. Something, that when you see it or hear of it you instantly recognise it, understand its significance and its place in the foundation of the culture in which it exists. If I said Statue of Liberty, Eiffel Tower, Buckingham Palace … these are all icons of national identity and as such you’d immediately have a sense of the history and social significance that each of these hold in the national identity of each country. They feature large in the collective consciousness. But there are other things, smaller things but no less significant or prominent in the collective consciousness and therefore worthy of inclusion in the category of ‘national institution’. Continue reading


Botanical Impressions

One thing I miss about living in the UK compared to living here in the USA are the national organisations dedicated to the preservation of historically significant sites, buildings and countryside such as the National Trust and English Heritage. America is a comparatively young nation and as such the care and preservation of its historical structures and artifacts is mostly left up to individual societies, or indeed, individual people. There is, in fact, a “National Register of Historic Places” and individual States and Counties have their own historic districts – we actually live in one such area, the “York Chester National Historic District,” and the houses within its borders are listed in the National Register of Historic Places. The parent body for the National Register is the National Park Service which is dedicated to safeguarding America’s nearly 400 national parks. Continue reading