Conservation Practice and the Future of Doctrinal Texts


Abstract

2021 marks the 90th anniversary of the adoption of the Athens Charter. This, the first international conservation charter, now forms part of the rapidly expanding collection of ‘doctrinal texts’ which undergirds modern conservation. Whatever its strengths and weaknesses, this collection provides a marker of collective identity and is crucial to the self-definition of our discipline.

While they are rightly held in great affection, this paper argues that to approach this collection of texts uncritically risks producing unintended consequences, potentially including the destruction of important heritage. Precisely because of their enduring influence, it is essential that as a discipline conservation engages in knowledgeable criticism of its doctrinal texts, through an appropriate and hermeneutically literate reading. 

This paper first considers the nature of doctrinal texts, before using the notion of ‘doctrine’ to explore some of the parallels and differences between doctrinal texts of a religious nature and those of conservation, and so to introduce the question of hermeneutics. This then leads to a discussion of the relation between theory and practice, and the notion, from Aristotle, of phronesis or practical wisdom. The paper then concludes with consideration of some of the implications conservation of adopting this approach.


Keywords

doctrinal text; hermeneutics; historic buildings; phronesis; Prudentia; Hans-Georg Gadamer

Aristotle (1999). Nicomachean Ethics. (T. Irwin, trans.). 2nd ed. Indianapolis, IN: Hackett.

Australia ICOMOS (2013). The Burra Charter: The Australia ICOMOS Charter for Places of Cultural Significance, 2013. Burwood, Australia: Australia ICOMOS.

Daniels, S. & Cosgrove, D.E. (1988). Introduction: Iconography and Landscape. In: The Iconography of Landscape : Essays on the Symbolic Representation, Design, and Use of Past Environments. Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University Press. pp. 1–10.

Gadamer, H.-G. (1976). On the Scope and Function of Hermeneutical Reflection. (D. E. Linge, trans.). In: Philosophical Hermeneutics. Berkeley and Los Angeles, CA: University of California Press. pp. 18–43.

Gadamer, H.-G. ([1960] 1989). Truth and Method. (J. Weinsheimer & D. G. Marshall, trans.). 2nd, rev. ed. London: Sheed and Ward.

Grondin, J. (1994). Introduction to Philosophical Hermeneutics. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.

Holy See (2019). Catechism of the Catholic Church. Vatican City; Washington, D.C.: Libreria Editrice Vaticana.

ICOMOS (1964). International Charter on the Conservation and Restoration of Monuments and Sites. Paris: ICOMOS.

ICOMOS (1994). The Nara Document on Authenticity. [Online]. ICOMOS. Available at: https://www.icomos.org/charters/nara-e.pdf.

ICOMOS (2008). Resolutions of the 16th General Assembly. [Online]. Paris: ICOMOS. Available at: https://www.icomos.org/quebec2008/resolutions/pdf/GA16_Resolutions_final_EN.pdf.

ICOMOS (2013). Annual Report 2009, Volume 1. [Online]. Paris: ICOMOS. Available at: https://www.icomos.org/images/DOCUMENTS/Secretariat/Annual_Reports/AR2009_Vol1complet_finalweb_20130618.pdf.

ICOMOS-UK (2015). A Cultural Heritage Manifesto. [Online]. Available at: http://www.icomos-uk.org/uploads/sidebar/PDF/A%20Cultural%20Heritage%20Manifesto.pdf.

Lowenthal, D. (2015). The Past Is a Foreign Country - Revisited. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Morris, W. ([1877] 2018). The Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings Manifesto. [Online]. Available at: https://www.spab.org.uk/about-us/spab-manifesto.

Szmygin, B. (2010). Formal Analysis of Doctrinal Texts in Heritage Protection. In: M. S. Falser, W. Lipp, & A. Tomaszewski (eds.) Conservation and Preservation : Interactions between Theory and Practice : In Memoriam Alois Riegl (1858-1905). Firenze: Edizioni Polistampa. pp. 97–106.

UNESCO (1972). Convention Concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage. [Online]. Available at: http://whc.unesco.org/archive/convention-en.pdf.

UNESCO (2003). Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage. [Online]. Available at: https://ich.unesco.org/en/convention.

Walter, N. (2020). Narrative Theory in Conservation: Change and Living Buildings. Abingdon and New York: Routledge.

Download

Published : 2021-12-29


Walter, N. (2021). Conservation Practice and the Future of Doctrinal Texts. Protection of Cultural Heritage, (12), 97-112. https://doi.org/10.35784/odk.2792

Nigel Walter  nigelesque@gmail.com
Department of Archaeology, University of York, The King's Manor, York YO1 7EP   United Kingdom
https://orcid.org/0000-0002-1152-522X