The online resource for the historic environment

4.02 Unit overview

To assist your understanding of this Unit see BS 7913: 2013:
Section 5: "Using significance as a framework for managing the historic environment"
Section 7: "Maintenance"

“Conservation is… a process which seeks both to question change and to reconcile modern needs with the significance of what we have inherited in order to safeguard the interests of future generations.”
Clark, K.

This Unit is designed to stimulate and encourage you to ask yourself some fundamental questions about why and how you intervene in the historic environment. Perhaps an even more fundamental question to address to yourself is – what, why and how is this place or object important enough to make me question my motives for intervention and how shall I plan and execute any works of intervention in order to protect significance.

The pressures of use and legislative impositions on a site of significance place strains on the asset and that significance. A balance or equilibrium must be struck between modern needs and impositions and a requirement to maintain the historic record that the asset offers to past, present and future generations.

This Unit will strive to assist you in gaining a better understanding of how these pressures of use may be incorporated in the form of change without undue threat to a site of significance.

Additionally, it is intended to stimulate you to improve your understanding of the reasons why it is necessary to investigate significance, coupled with a requirement to identify and analyse the effects of a broad range of issues, social, financial, funding and contextual together with other activities and pressures associated with the use and management of an SME, and formulate a conservation management strategy to protect significance. There is a need to understand the pressures of change and how they might impact on significance before contemplating any works of intervention and associated with the use and management of an asset. It is important to understand how this assessment informs, assists and underpins intervention strategy in respect of the historic environment.

“ I am I plus my surroundings and if I do not preserve the latter, I do not preserve myself.”
José Ortega y Gasset 1883-1955

This Unit demonstrates the importance of combining the knowledge gained by investigation and how such knowledge assists management and protection of an asset, facilitating a structured approach to conservation strategy.

It outlines personal challenges, skills and procedures necessary to enable you to improve your knowledge of the cultural asset, its social importance and pressures placed upon it and its context by its use and by legislation. It will assist you in gaining a better understanding of the impact of how the decisions you make when planning intervention will, or are likely to, affect significance.

Aim of this Unit.

“There is a need to impart knowledge of conservation attitudes and approaches to all those who may have a direct or indirect impact on cultural property.”
ICOMOS Education and Training Guidelines 1993

See ICOMOS Education and Training Guidelines

The Unit is divided into nine sections that are equivalent to and in compliance with the 1993 ICOMOS Education and Training Guidelines clauses 5a, 5c, 5d, 5f, 5h, 5i, 5j, 5m & 5n.

Each section comprises textual and illustrative information that together with the essential reading, recommended reading, additional reading and web sites to visit will assist you in gaining an understanding of the importance of the need to investigate and use the products of your investigation to fully understand the potential impact of your decisions and to facilitate a conservation strategy.

The in-text-questions are designed to test your understanding and comprehension of each section and the overall need to establish facts about the asset’s context, use and history, and develop this knowledge in order to formulate a strategic approach to intervention and conservation management. They are rhetorical in nature and require you to respond in your own way. The in text questions are progressive in nature and build up to a better understanding and decision making about what to include in your portfolio.

You should answer these questions by reference to both the text of this Unit and by reading the material suggested. Omission of these actions may reduce your understanding of the text: completion of the reading suggested will provide better understanding of the discipline of conservation and how professionals within it function and operate to preserve and protect the historic environment: You should consider how the body of conservation knowledge is constantly being questioned, expanded and added to by specialists within the field and how the principles, ethics and philosophy of conservation informs and structures any intervention work. A personal acceptance of this fact will help you to understand that you must also continue to expand your own knowledge of conservation philosophy – it is subject to continuous change and your understanding of it requires constant updating. The important fact to recognise is that it is a process of personal improvement that must be self-generated through enthusiasm for the subject!

All of this assists your understanding of what needs to be contained within your individual portfolio for accreditation assessment.

Within this Unit the term SME will be used to describe heritage assets and is derived from the words: sites, monuments and ensembles. The word asset is also used in this regard.