The online resource for the historic environment

1.06 International charters

Understanding cultural and historical significance and society’s response to it – UK and International response.

“These old buildings do not belong to us only…they have belonged to our forefathers and they will belong to our descendants unless we play them false. They are not…our property, to do as we like with. We are only trustees for those that come after us.”
William Morris 1889.

The genesis of the modern conservation movement stems from the thinking, writings and principles of philosophical thought by people such as John Ruskin, William Morris, Pugin et al. who were instrumental in germinating the anti-scrape movement of the mid-19th century - a reaction to the conjectural intervention by restoration of many of our medieval churches by people such as James Wyatt, Lord Grimshaw, and in France, Eugène-Emanuel Violett-le-Duc et al.

See also Stephan Tschudi Madsen. “Restoration and Anti-Restoration”. Universitetsforlaget 1976.

The anti-scrape movement culminated in the formation of the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings and the SPAB Manifesto of 1877.
Until the early/mid 20th century the conservation movement was essentially a British (English even) reaction to the interventionist practices of the Victorian restoration movement. A similar conflict of philosophies between the interventionists (seeking perfection) and the anti-interventionists was also ocurring in France during the 19th century

How do you consider the 1877 SPAB view now sits with contemporary thinking on the value and recognition of all periods of intervention post that of the original fabric?
Consider the difference between original and authentic.

It was not until the League of Nations Athens Conference of 1931, that the first attempt was made to set down a code of ethics and the conservation movement took on a truly international mantle. In 1964, the Congress of Architects and Specialists of Historic Buildings approved a text for an International Charter for the Conservation of Monuments and Sites, The Venice Charter: This charter was adopted by the newly formed International Council on Monuments and Sites in 1965 – ICOMOS.

In 1981 Australian ICOMOS adopted the Burra Charter (originally published 1979) (latest edition 1999). This charter was the first to identify the importance of Cultural Significance. The charter set down definitions of commonly used terms and conservation principles. See Earl, J. Building Conservation Philosophy.

In 1985 the International Institute for Conservation Ottawa drew up its own Code of Ethics for Practice for Those Involved in the Conservation of Cultural Property in Canada.

In 1993 ICOMOS structured its Guidelines for Education and Training in the Conservation of Monuments, Ensembles and Sites. The Guidelines identified 14 skills or competencies necessary to act as a conservation practitioner. This document offers a framework for education and training for all professionals involved in the field of conservation and forms the basis and structure of most, if not all, courses in conservation training today. It is this document that informs and structures this suite of CPD units.

See Drury, P (2000) The Role of International Organisations The Building Conservation Directory

Further reading
Jokilehto, J. (2002) A History of Architectural Conservation. Butterworth Heinemann