The online resource for the historic environment

5.02 Unit overview

To assist your understanding of this Unit see BS 7913: 2013:
Section 4: "Heritage values and significance".
Section 5: "Using significance as a framework for managing the historic environment."
Section 6: "Significance as part of operational care and other interventions".
Section 7: "Maintenance."
Section 8: "Heritage and project management."
Annex B: "Conservation manuals, logbooks and four/five yearly inspections."

“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.Informed Conservation

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?

“Although many aspects relating to the implementation and management of conservation works are similar to those of normal construction work, there are a number of essential differences which require special attention. Significant problems are created by the fact that the site itself is sensitive in historical, architectural or archaeological terms. This will have a fundamental influence on the way in which the work should proceed and in the use of the most appropriate type of contract, contractor or directly employed labour… Those involved should have expertise in the type of work envisaged and a proper appreciation of the architectural, historic or archaeological significance of the site.”
Stirling, S. Bolling, C. (2002)

There is a need to prepare specific briefs for professional advisers, to clearly define scope of work for contractors and directly employed labour and to ensure that expertise and experience is matched to ability to undertake work without placing significance at risk. Clearly defined instructions will be needed, and performance specification documentation carefully drawn up to ensure that providers of service, and required outcome, achieve the aims of conservation and use without loss or damage to significance.

“Competent person: person with expertise and the ability to undertake work in an appropriate manner." BS 7913: 2013

See also: Annex A of BS 7913: 2013 "Conservation accreditation schemes".

This Unit aims to demonstrate the importance of combining understanding, gained by significance investigation, with the aims of intervention work and how that understanding assists management and implementation of works without compromising significance. It suggests a structured approach to conservation strategy and management of intervention work. It also strives to guarantee that when implementing works to the historic environment you are aware of the need to protect significance and are able to put in place measures to ensure an asset’s authenticity is preserved and protected for future generations.

“A conservation management plan is simply a document that helps you look after the heritage. It explains why the heritage matters to people and sets out what you can do to look after it in any future use, alteration, development, management or repair. …

Conserving heritage means looking after it, both for ourselves and for future generations. This does not mean freezing it, but it does mean caring for it, using it, enjoying it and making it accessible to others in a way that does not damage what is important about it. ”
Heritage Lottery Fund. Conservation Management Plans.

The fundamental requirement is to develop a plan for intervention; this plan should:

  • Understand the asset
  • Assess its significance
  • Identify issues and vulnerabilities
  • Set policy aims for management
  • During implementation the plan should be used as a management tool for controlling works.
  • During implementation the works should be monitored and, on completion, reviewed for future reference and feedback.

(after Conservation management plans, Heritage Lottery Fund.)

Cost planning and cost controls associated with maintenance and intervention work will be looked at in this Unit.

This Unit will look at the effects of and management of visitors and the impact that they may have on an asset. This will include managing tourist numbers and visitor attractions in order to limit loss of, or pose a threat to, significance. The Unit will also investigate measures to identify threats to significance and fabric stemming from intensification of use, and offers a strategy for evaluation of that increased use against the additional revenue that might be generated.

The Unit will also look at reviews of condition and planning for maintenance that might be recommended or identified by such reviews; how such maintenance might be facilitated, including financial planning and fund sourcing. The issue of health and safety will also be addressed not only in terms of H&S during use but also in respect of planned intervention work.

Additionally the Unit outlines personal challenges, skills and procedures necessary to enable you to improve your knowledge of cultural assets their value to society and how this must be protected during works of intervention. It will assist you in gaining a better understanding of the impact of the decisions you make when planning, managing and implementing intervention work and how those decisions will, or may, 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 Guidelines for Education and Training.

The Unit is divided into seven sections that are equivalent to and in compliance with the 1993 ICOMOS Guidelines for Education and Training clauses 5e, 5h, 5i, 5j, 5k, 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.

Self-assessment questions will be posed and will be indicated like this in the text

These questions are designed to test your understanding and comprehension of each section and the overall need to establish facts about an 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 better understanding and decision making about what to include in your portfolio.

You should answer these questions by reference to 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.