The online resource for the historic environment

1.11 Conclusion

Studying the material contained within this Unit and reading from the essential, recommended and further reading lists should have challenged your understanding of what cultural significance means and how to evaluate it. You should be able to appropriately respond to your institute's requests for provision of a portfolio of information, prepared by you individually, and submitted in support of your application for accreditation as a conservation practitioner.

This Unit has sought to encourage you to think about what cultural significance means, what factors may influence significance and how it might be assessed. You should also have been encouraged to seek additional clarification of significance from other recommended sources and, in so doing, stimulated your need to research and extend your knowledge.

In that process you should have gained a better understanding of the importance of cultural significance, its assessment and primary status in the process of pre-intervention planning and how it underpins all other factors influencing the conservation/intervention process.

The continuity of the historic environment offers to society a constant or datum from which history may be recognised and from which society continually reinforces its identity through reference. It is vital that that reference source is not violated by inappropriate intervention that takes little influence from the recognised philosophical structure that underpins conservation ethics, principles and practice. This Unit seeks to encourage you to understand that fact and how you, as a conservation practitioner, are responsible to the wider society when contemplating intervention works to the built environment. This Unit and its associated units offers a framework for development to ensure that your actions do not jeopardize the historic environment, as a resource, by inappropriate and misguided actions.

The guidance offered in this Unit will overlap information in other Units but demonstrates the important status that assessment of cultural significance has within the process of conservation. The synthesis of this early guidance will be explored in greater depths in the remaining units.

A thought from John Earl

“…a sound philosophy is not based on a set of immutable rules but a clear understanding of what one is setting out to achieve. Comprehensive knowledge of all the relevant facts…will not in itself point the way. The practitioner…must develop a critical and self-critical frame of mind, nurturing the ability to proceed from facts by way of logical argument to defensible – if not inevitable – conclusions.”
Earl, J (2003) Building Conservation Philosophy Donhead/College of Estate Management

Recommended reading
Humberstone, J (1997) Taking the Philosophical Approach, The Building Conservation Directory Cathedral Communications, Tisbury
English Heritage (1994) Investigative Work on Historic Buildings English Heritage, London
BS 7913: 2013 Guide to the conservation of historic buildings
Drury P (2000) The Role of International Organisations Building Conservation Directory Tisbury (hard copy only)
Clark K (2000) Conservation Plans: benefit or burdenBuilding Conservation Directory Tisbury
Wood, J (1996) Record Making and the Historic Environment Building Conservation Directory, Tisbury
State of Victoria (1995)Criteria for Assessing Cultural Heritage Significance State Government of Victoria, Sydney