Uses of Heritage Part II

Uses of Heritage Part II, Chapters 3, 4 & 5

Chapter 3: Authorizing Institutions of Heritage

  • Conventions and charters enacted by UNESCO and ICOMOS may be understood as authorizing institutions of heritage, as they define what heritage is, how and why it is significant, and how it should be managed and used.
  • Heritage management, conservation, preservation and restoration are not just objective technical procedures, they are themselves part of the subjective heritage performance in which meaning is re/created and maintained.
  • The following three points are discussed:
  1. AHD, in privileging the innate aesthetic and scientific value and physicality of heritage, masks the real cultural and political work that the heritage process does.
  2. Acknowledge that the technical process of management and conservation established and framed by the AHD is itself a cultural process that creates value and meaning.
  3. Heritage management and conservation process is not only about the management of fabric. Rather, it engages in the regulation or ‘management’ of cultural and social value and meaning. Not only are certain values embedded in the AHD perpetuated, but dissonance is itself regulated and arbitrated by the values and ideologies embedded in the AHD.

Venice Charter

  • In defining the subject of conservation and management, the Charter states that:
    • ‘The concept of an historic monument embraces not only the single architectural work but also the urban and rural setting in which is found the evidence of a particular civilisation, a significant development of an historic event.’ (Article 1)
    • In structuring of this definition, the cultural value of great works of architecture and art are taken for granted. Their value is constructed here as part of what Fairclough identifies as the ‘common ground’ of shared or taken for granted meanings that underpin a sense of fellowship – in this case, a professional fellowship of concern over the preservation and conservation of the past (2003:55).
    • The first sentence of this definition both expresses the existential assumptions about the nature of ‘heritage’ and also shapes and defines the common ground of conservation philosophy by reproducing those assumptions as authoritative text.
  • Not only are monuments ‘imbued with a message form the past’ (preamble), but a monument is also ‘inseparable from the history to which it bears witness and from the setting in which it occurs’ (Article 7). Monuments are thus also ‘living witnesses of their age-old traditions’ (preamble). The idea here that a monument is a ‘witness’ to history and tradition anthropomorphizes material culture and creates a sense that memory is somehow locked within or embedded in the fabric of the monument or site. The anthropomorphizing of monuments and buildings is a common form of legitimization in the conservation movement, and is a discursive device that helps naturalizes the authority of the values and meanings a place may represent by helping to cement them as inherent.
    • [Recall the old trees are bearing witness to history, that the trees are intrinsically valuable and that memory is locked within them in a way. But what about accessing these memories, which is what makes memories in the first place?]
    • [Is there a way to make instant heritage in the London Festival of Architecture? What are the things that are inherent to heritage that can be replicated?]
  • The ‘intention of conserving and restoring monuments is to safeguard them no less as works of art than as historical evidence (Article 3). These statements reveal the existential assumption about the inherent value of a monument that underlies the heritage management process… The Charter makes these values assumptions appear as unquestioned ‘common sense’ and as such, the Charter is doing important ideological work in legitimizing and universalising these values.
  • Article 15 notes that care must ‘be taken to facilitate the understanding of the monument and to reveal it without ever distorting its meaning’ (my emphasis. The working of this statement is very strong, demanding total commitment to the values underlying it. It is the work of experts, and the Charter is very stern in its assertion that professional experts are those best suited to care for and protect monuments and sites, that must reveal and expose the meaning of the monument in an objective manner so that its meaning is not distorted.

Bookmark on Intangible Heritage (Korea, Japan etc.)

Chapter 4: The ‘Manored’ Past

  • This chapter explores two things.
  • Firstly, it examines how the authorized heritage discourse is taken up, expressed within and frames the heritage narratives of visitors to one type of authorized heritage site.
  • Secondly, it explores the meanings and nature of those visits to visitors, and examines the types and nature of the ‘identity work’ undertaken at these sites.
  • In effect, the chapter asks: are the ideas of heritage actually as universal or uniform as the policy discourses adopted both nationally and internationally tend to assume? Does the process of identity work simply involve reading the cultural symbolism, or is there a more physically active sense of performance and place involved in this process? Are visitors to heritage places simply passive receptors of an intended message, or is something more active and mindful going on?
    • [Recall ‘tourist’ visits to Liede Village for example, what are the experiences of the tourist?

Chapter 5: Fellas, Fossils and Country

  • This chapter explores these issues further, and examines how the Australian AHD’s representation of nationhood and national identity are themselves performed, negotiated and ultimately contested. The chapter argues that the AHD and the forms of national identity it constructs are inevitably multi-layered and underpin authorized sub-national identities.