|Mills producing Harris Tweed dot the landscape at Ballalan, Outer Hebrides, date unknown
(photo credit: Harris Tweed Authority Archive)
|Archaeologists excavate and conserve the ancient site of Herculaneum
(Photo credit: Herculaneum Conservation Project website)
- One of a kind or limited edition;
- Culturally significant, or representative of the era from which it is from
- Possessing a concrete provenance
- Accompanied by an authenticity certificate by an authorized institution or mentioned in correspondence of the time
- Owned indisputable by you.
|Specimens from my rock and mineral collection
(Photo: Nicholas Merkelson)
I’ve noticed every so often some bloggers will update their site with a “Footnotes” post where they include a few links to relevant material and provide minimal commentary. I used to think this was a second-rate way of keeping readers interested and informed. Why not write a short piece instead? Aren’t most stories worth listing also worth writing about? Clearly a bulleted list offers little interpretive value and in some ways cheapens the significance of the story and its message/implications.
Lately, though, I’ve been considering the merits of the “Footnotes” post. In these lists, readers are alerted to a greater number of topics than in a longer, more focused post, as well as a range of noteworthy stories rather than just those about, say, archaeology, or museums, or cultural events. (Un)fortunately, the quantity and diversity of stories I’d like to cover on Culture in Peril is too huge, therefore the “Footnotes” post allows all of us to remain current on cultural heritage issues when it’s needed most. While none of the topics become outdated or obsolete, my goal is to keep readers up to speed without compromising the analytical side of Culture in Peril.
So, not to belabor my point further, here are a few stories/issues for your consideration…
– Zapotec Indians in the state of Oaxaca in southern Mexico provide a leading example of sustainable community forest ownership and management. Cultural traditions, such as rule by an assembly of equals (“comuneros“), have defined their communities’ business model: anybody who dares work for loggers or hunters is branded a traitor and will lose property rights.
– Babylon and other sites of ancient Mesopotamia are finally receiving financial and material support from archaeologists and preservationists to prevent further deterioration. The World Monuments Fund has unveiled a conservation plan while the U.S. State Department has committed $2 million to preserve the surviving ruins, including the two famous ancient cities of Ur and Nimrud. Iraqi officials hope the preservation projects will attract scientists and tourists alike, contributing to the country’s cultural and economic revival.
– London’s house museums offer a glimpse into the lives and inspirations of aesthetes from the city’s past. The stories of the houses’ former owners are as rich as the furniture and artwork inside.
– Former director of Little Falls Public Library (New York, USA) laments the “significant loss” of historical material through the sale of objects in the collection. Raises questions about motives for and ethics of deaccession in museums and institutions with collections.
– Film footage of Jackie Robinson discovered in archives at Drew University (New Jersey, USA).
– Residents of Djenne, Mali angered at restrictions on development in their city, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. People complain of being “frozen in time like pieces in a museum,” echoing similar tensions from those presently living at heritage sites across the world.
– Universal Music Group donates over 200,000 recordings from the 1930s-40s to the Library of Congress. Collection includes iconic, rare, and never-digitized tracks from the jazz and pre-rock period. All will be available to the public for free!
If you have newsworthy stories that you would like to see on Culture in Peril, please leave a comment below or email to cultureinperil (at) gmail (dot) com. I’m grateful for all input!
Melissa Abraham, senior communications specialist at the J. Paul Getty Trust, posted an article, “What Do You Mean, ‘Sustainability and Cultural Heritage?,” in which she discusses sustainable development as it relates to the preservation of cultural resources. Sustainable development, according to Ms. Abraham, is “meeting the world’s current needs by using what we already have, so that we’re not compromising the resources of future generations.” She rightly notes that this forward-looking, long-term heritage conservation strategy has innumerable benefits to our environmental, economic, and social well-being. Ms. Abraham cites an example from Nevada City, California, a town which has capitalized on its rich history by incorporating many of its Gold Rush-era structures into local business opportunities. Sustainably conserved, the historic district of Nevada City is now listed on the National Register of Historic Places and considered to be among the best-preserved towns of the West. (Check out this brochure for a walking tour of Nevada City.)
An important phrase to consider when discussing cultural conservation (or cultural sustainability) is “adaptive reuse,” the process that changes a disused or ineffective item into a new item that can be used for a different purpose. I think adaptive reuse is the concept alluded to but never mentioned in Ms. Abraham’s article. In this burgeoning interdisciplinary field–a combination of heritage preservation, architecture, and community development–adaptive reuse is a key to preserving a structure while propping it up for new use. The preservation of historic buildings and other cultural resources provides a window into how our built environment had been structured in the past as well as gives a vision of where they fit into our future. Where a building is no long able to function with its original purpose, a readapted use may be the only way to preserve its heritage significance . In all successful cases of adaptive reuse, there is minimal impact on the heritage significance of the resource and its setting. Adaptive reuse is self-defeating if it fails to protect the building’s heritage value–its appearance; its social, cultural, or historic meaning; or its fundamental nature.
Adaptive reuse circumvents the process of demolition and reconstruction, reducing waste and thus allowing for the reincorporation of old materials without wasting time and money or compromising environmental conditions. In this way, the original building retains its “embodied energy,” that is the energy consumed by all of the processes associated with the production of a building, from the acquisition of natural resources to product delivery, including mining, manufacturing of materials and equipment, transport and administrative functions. Water, light, and heat systems can be upgraded, too. Socially, adaptive reuse can restore and maintain the heritage significance of a building and help to ensure its survival, rather than falling into disrepair through neglect. Communities increasingly recognize that future generations will benefit from the protection of cultural heritage resources. Our communal appreciation and self-recognition is enriched not only by the preservation of heritage buildings, but also from their adaptation into accessible and useable public places. Economically, adaptive reuse creates commercially viable investment assets for owners and users. Historic buildings can be “recycled” to suit multiple uses, such as offices, hospitals, businesses, and residences. Adaptive reuse ensures that previously defunct properties can once again become livable and sustainable.
So, who is interested in adaptive reuse? Builders, developers, architects, community groups, heritage councils, individuals, and all levels of government.
The Getty Conservation Institute will host a free panel discussion, “Sustainability and Heritage in a World of Change,” on Tuesday, January 11, 2011 at 7:00PM. More information about the panelists and the Institute can be found here.
 Australian Government, Department of the Environment and Heritage, 2004. Adaptive reuse: preserving our past, building our future.