Heritage and Conservation Strategies:
Understanding the Justifications and Implications



Hari Srinivas
Policy Analysis Series E-100. April 2015.



W

hy heritage conservation? Conserving urban heritage - historical buildings, festivals, art forms, dance, music, sculpture etc. - may seem less of a priority compared to more pressing issues such as infrastrcture development, poverty alleviation or job creation.

But, in the long run, effective conservation of heritage resources not only helps in preserving and safegaurding the resources, but also in revitalizing local economies, and in bringing about a sense of identity, pride and belonging to residents.

Good heritage conservation strategies require (a) better appreciation of the value of heritage assets (both tangible and intangible), and (b) integration of such strategies within the larger processes of planning and development of a city or urban area.

Heritage preservation and conservation policies -

  • help in building urban identity and pride in its residents.
  • go beyond just resorting and preserving historical assets,
  • lead to well-being and security, through broad community participation and involvement.
  • generate opportunities for job creation and poverty alleviation
  • broadly, and in the long-run, help achieve sustainability goals as well.


Figure 1: Heritage Conservation Policy Dimensions

Figure 1 above illustrates the dimensions of heritage conservation that accrue not only for heritage assets, but also to larger development aspects (across the x-axis). Distinctions across the y-axis on the other hand show the benefits at the community level, and at the city levels.

Some of the key aspects of the four quadrants in the figure above illustrate some of the contributing factors to heritage conservation, but are not limited to these alone, and there are several other aspects as well - geographical information systems and mapping, fianncial instruments etc. - that have not been included.

Larger developmental aspects of heritage conservation strategies at the city level cover issues such as tourism development, job creation and poverty alleviation. At the community level, priorities change to security and safety (including disaster resilience), community well-being and community participation.

Heritage aspects at the city level cover issues such as urban planning/zoning, infrastructure/services provision, and transportation management. At the community level, heritage conservation help in creating a "sense of place", urban identity and pride and specific perservation of the comunity.

Using the above discussion, a series of eight sections are presented below that outline the justifications and implications of heritage conservation strategies:

  1. Heritage conservation and urban identity / pride: A good heritage conservation strategy is critical to build a strong urban identity and pride in our cities and towns.
  2. Heritage conservation is more than history: A good heritage conservation strategy incorporates all aspects of a region's heritage - historical, but also natural and cultural.
  3. Heritage conservation needs community participation and involvement: A good heritage conservation strategy requires the active participation and involvement of the local community in all aspects of its development and implementation.
  4. Heritage conservation leads to well-being / human security: A good heritage conservation strategy should also have well-being and human security as some of its eventual goals for the local community.
  5. Heritage conservation is critical to job creation and poverty alleviation: A good heritage conservation strategy should be linked to the local economy, in order to create jobs and alleviate poverty - particularly in developing countries
  6. Heritage conservation helps preserve intangible local cultures: A good heritage conservation strategy looks at both tangible and intangible heritage resources in an integrated manner
  7. Heritage conservation strongly influences sustainability goals: A good heritage conservation strategy inherently takes into account, the long term sustainability goals of the region
  8. Heritage conservation through localization, contextualization& and customization: A good heritage conservation strategy needs to be localized, contextualized and customized in order for it to succeed and deliver on its goals.
Sustainable Development Goals and Heritage

Where is heritage conservation in the new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)*?

The 17 SDGs have a number of targets embedded within them focusing on a number of sub-themes and issues.

Goal 11 aims to “Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable.” This goal envisions sustainable, livable urban centers with universal access to green spaces. There are a total of 10 targets to be achieved under this Goal.

Target 11.4 specifically calls for “Strengthening efforts to protect and safeguard the world’s cultural and natural heritage”

How can this target be achieved?


* See GDRC's feature, SDGs Dashboard


Heritage ...
 and urban identity / pride
...  is more than history
...  needs community participation
 and involvement
...  leads to well-being / human security
...  is critical to job creation
 and poverty alleviation
...  helps preserve intangible local cultures
...  strongly influences sustainability goals
...  through localization, contextualization
 and customization.
Heritage Conservation
... and urban identity/pride
A good heritage conservation strategy is critical to build a strong urban identity and pride in our cities and towns.

H
eritage Conservation and urban identity/pride - A good heritage conservation strategy is critical to build a strong urban identity and pride in our cities and towns.

  • Urban Growth
    Cities, particularly in developing countries, have been steadily growing at a high rate, far outstripping population growth rates at the national or regional levels. This growth has also been a result of rural population migrating to urban areas to search for jobs and economic opportunities.

  • Multi-cultural diversity
    Cities therefore simultaneously present both a challenge and an opportunity for their sustainable growth, and for building a good quality of life. Most decision-makers fail to see the people themselves as a resource - as most of them come from different regions and cultures, bringing with them a broad multi-cultural diversity that can add to the 'salad bowl' of a city (and not the 'melting pot' as we always think it is!!)

  • Urban anonymity
    But without the necessary economic opportunities and jobs sought by urban populations, this has lead to a divided society of have's and have-nots, of skills, finances and access to resources. From a cultural perspective, this situation is manifested by the phenomenon of urban anonymity, of a culturally rich population unable to find ways to express itself.

  • Need for a 'handle'
    Providing opportunities for cultural and heritage expressions in a multi-dimensional society is a critical first step in any sound heritage conservation strategy. This requires a 'handle' - an anchor of sorts - to which people and their talents can revolve around. The inspiration can come in the form of a broader heritage 'platform' (literally and figuratively!) on which people can find opportunities to express their talent - which a city effectively offers!

  • Urban identity
    Many cities have reinvented themselves to develop this heritage platform by building and emphasizing their historical roots and cultural assets. Developing and facilitating such a platform gives credence and justification for a city to provide a distinct urban identity to cultural expressions and manifestations.

  • City pride
    The ultimate goal of all of the above actions - one that will ensure success of a heritage conservation strategy - is to develop pride in the residents of the city towards their culture and heritage. This will go a long way in facilitating active community participation in cultural heritage activities.


Heritage ...
...  and urban identity / pride
 is more than history
...  needs community participation
 and involvement
...  leads to well-being / human security
...  is critical to job creation
 and poverty alleviation
...  helps preserve intangible local cultures
...  strongly influences sustainability goals
...  through localization, contextualization
 and customization.
Heritage Conservation
...is more than just history
A good heritage conservation strategy incorporates all aspects of a region's heritage - historical, but also natural and cultural.

H
eritage Conservation is more than just history - A good heritage conservation strategy incorporates all aspects of a region's heritage - historical, but also natural and cultural.

  • Current emphasis of heritage plans
    Much of local and national government's plans for preserving 'heritage' deals almost exclusively with physical assets, such as historical sites and buildings - Palaces, temples, churches, mosques, tombs, and similar sites. This is particularly true in countries and regions that have a long history and a number of historical public buildings.

  • But heritage is more than that
    We need to remember that heritage is in fact more than just physical buildings. The true heritage of an area is to comprehensively look at not only the tangible assets, but intangible ones as well. This includes public assets, and private 'domestic' assets such as dance, music, art, festivals, dresses, food, and more form part of the area's heritage.

  • Need for a broader outlook
    A problem that is faced in heritage conservation is the vertical demarkation of natural, cultural and historical heritage assets between different departments and agencies, with little, if any, coordination or integration among them. This clearly calls for a more coordinated effort among the different stakeholders - who maintain their individual goals and objectives, but collectively incorporate them into a common and agreed vision.

  • Components of a strategy
    Taking the above points into consideration in developing a conservation strategy will first of all require a comprehensive inventory that can be used to make informed decisions about the management of heritage sites. This is followed by a work programme to protect and rehabilitate heritage features as well as improve opportunities for the local community to be involved. Along with the implementation of the work programme is its operations and maintenance, containing a fiscally responsible plan defining the routine, ongoing operating and maintenance activities needed to ensure clean, safe and preserved heritage assets.

    Community involvement and awareness should be an integral and important component of the strategy, to increase educational opportunities, stewardship programmes and community involvement activities. Monitoring is also an important component, to evaluate the effectiveness of the strategy, and to provide updates to the strategies as needed.


Heritage ...
...  and urban identity / pride
...  is more than history
 needs community participation
 and involvement
...  leads to well-being / human security
...  is critical to job creation
 and poverty alleviation
...  helps preserve intangible local cultures
...  strongly influences sustainability goals
...  through localization, contextualization
 and customization.
Heritage Conservation
... needs participation and involvement of the community
A good heritage conservation strategy requires the active participation and involvement of the local community in all aspects of its development and implementation.

H
eritage Conservation needs participation and involvement of the community - A good heritage conservation strategy requires the active participation and involvement of the local community in all aspects of its development and implementation.

  • What indeed is participation?
    The idea that people should participate in planning, implementing and managing heritage assets has gained acceptance among governments and development agencies. Arguments in favour of citizen's participation has been touted for long, and ultimately it means a readiness of both the government and the citizens to accept responsibilities and perform activities. It also means that the value of each group's contribution is seen, appreciated and used. The honest inclusion of a community's representatives as "partners" in decision-making, makes for successful citizen's participation.

  • Importance of participation
    Effective and comprehensive participation of the local community in heritage planning and implementation will help in maintaining continuous dialogue between the government and community, so that a coordinated/integrated approach can be effected, and conflicts resolved. It also helps in utilizing resources to the best possible extent, and establishing a network where training and awareness building can take place. Community participation can be used to deal with micro issues, which usually suffer due to lack of focus and location-specific solutions.

  • A participation how-to
    1. Use active rather than passive, and practical rather than theoretical methods. Involve everyone - assign tasks which ensure everyone is involved or has a chance.
    2. Begin with an activity which is of interest to all. Building a heritage map is a good start. Provide a simple outline. Each member can then put his or her house on the map. Other resources and landmarks can be added as required.
    3. Use small groups. A large group intimidates the less bold, makes consensus more difficult, and inhibits spontaneity. Small homogeneous groups where there is mutual trust and concern are more cooperative and supportive, at least initially.
    4. Provide meaningful data and information. For those with no or little education, statistics and academic information cannot be interpreted. Simple graphic models, numbers and charts should be used.
    5. Facilitate access to more information. Take the group to a library, a government office, school or on field trips where they can increase their knowledge base and learn where to go for information in the future.
    6. Conscientize the group!. Only when political awareness has been raised, are people willing and mentally able to help themselves.

  • Externalities of participation
    Multifaceted participation of the community in heritage projects provide a number of externalities. Participation of the community enables a clear identification and understanding of what the community needs and feels about their locality as a whole, helping local development plans. Since they are involved in the project planning process, they can assist in decision making and providing choices on location of services, beneficiaries, and community leaders. Participation ensures control over allocation of project resources, and mobilization of community resources for development. If implemented properly, community participation also becomes important for implementing project activities and in periodic monitoring and evaluation of project activities.


Heritage ...
...  and urban identity / pride
...  is more than history
...  needs community participation
 and involvement
 leads to well-being / human security
...  is critical to job creation
 and poverty alleviation
...  helps preserve intangible local cultures
...  strongly influences sustainability goals
...  through localization, contextualization
 and customization.
Heritage Conservation
... leads to well-being and human security
A good heritage conservation strategy should also have well-being and human security as some of its eventual goals for the local community.

H
eritage Conservation leads to well-being and human security - A good heritage conservation strategy should also have well-being and human security as some of its eventual goals for the local community.

  • Well-being and human security
    'Human security' has to be seen as an outcome of multiple and interacting processes. Economic, demographic, environmental, and social issues are increasingly recognized as affecting human security. It is achieved when and where individuals and communities have the options necessary to end, mitigate, or adapt to risks to their human, environmental, and social rights. It is also achieved when communities have the capacity and freedom to exercise these options; and actively participate in attaining these options. These individually and collectively, affect the overall well-being of our societies.

  • Components of human security
    Human security is concerned with safeguarding and expanding people's vital freedoms. It requires both protecting people from critical and pervasive threats and empowering people to take charge of their own lives. Protection refers to the norms, policies and institutions essential to shield people and implies a 'top-down approach', such as the rule of law and democratic governance. Empowerment underscores the role of people as actors and participants and implies a 'bottom-up' approach.

  • Where does heritage conservation come in?
    If planned and implemented properly, conserving and preserving the local heritage assets provides a rallying point for people to work together, and to feel a sense of pride in their locality. This attachment to local heritage assets eventually results in a sense of well-being for the local community.

  • Need for action to achieve well-being
    A critical issue in the well-being of a community is the use of local heritage assets to generate feelings of belonging and pride. This has to be fostered by targeting action, catering to economic, environmental and social needs of the community. Heritage conservation strategies should cater to these needs, making it an integral part of the development of the region (for example, job creation, education, income generation etc.).


Heritage ...
...  and urban identity / pride
...  is more than history
...  needs community participation
 and involvement
...  leads to well-being / human security
 is critical to job creation
 and poverty alleviation
...  helps preserve intangible local cultures
...  strongly influences sustainability goals
...  through localization, contextualization
 and customization.
Heritage Conservation
... is critical to job creation and poverty alleviation
A good heritage conservation strategy should be linked to the local economy, in order to create jobs and alleviate poverty - particularly in developing countries.

H
eritage Conservation is critical to job creation and poverty alleviation - A good heritage conservation strategy should be linked to the local economy, in order to create jobs and alleviate poverty - particularly in developing countries.

  • Heritage and the local economy
    The success of a heritage conservation strategy largely depends on the strength of its links to the local economy. This linking will be important for the longer-term sustainability of the heritage programme and of the asset itself - particularly in developing countries.

  • Job creation through heritage conservation
    A good heritage conservation strategy should contribute to overall developmental goals such as poverty reduction and job creation/income generation. The goal of job creation is particularly important, either directly in the heritage programme itself (for example, in construction or archaeological digs etc.) or indirectly through support services (for example, in shops, and restaurants, hotels for visitors, etc.).

    Job creation can be tourism-related (for example, hospitality, transportation etc.), handicraft-related (in the creation and in the marketing of handicraft items) or other types of jobs.

  • Poverty alleviation
    Heritage conservation strategies intrinsically need to include job creation and income generation for the local community as critical components. Such strategies provide opportunities for the local community, and also ensure in the conservation and preservation of the heritage assets, thus alleviating poverty in the long-run.


Heritage ...
...  and urban identity / pride
...  is more than history
...  needs community participation
 and involvement
...  leads to well-being / human security
...  is critical to job creation
 and poverty alleviation
 helps preserve intangible local cultures
...  strongly influences sustainability goals
...  through localization, contextualization
 and customization.
Heritage Conservation
... helps preserve intangible local cultures
A good heritage conservation strategy looks at both tangible and intangible heritage resources in an integrated manner

H
eritage Conservation helps preserve intangible local cultures - A good heritage conservation strategy looks at both tangible and intangible heritage resources in an integrated manner

  • Heritage intangibles
    When the term 'heritage' is used, the general public usually assume that reference in being made to buildings with ancient, religious and/or historical values. Heritage, of course, is much more than just physical or tangible assets. A good heritage conservation strategy will have to integrate intangible assets as well, creating a smooth continuum between them.

  • Forums to highlight intangibles
    What are intangible assets? These include art, dance, music etc. expressed through festivals, market fairs, exhibitions, competitions, and other aspects of the local culture and religion. These forms of assets are at the same time unique in the heritage value they individually represent, and are also an intrinsic part of the local cultural fabric. Therefore, setting up forums of local citizens (such as association, clubs or committees) go a long way in highlighting the importance of the assets, and will also bring the local community together.

  • Role of mass media
    The mass media - print, electronic and online - play an important role in raising awareness and educating the local communities on heritage issues and the value they represent for them. Seeking their active involvement in the heritage conservation action right from the beginning will ensure that the local community is informed and involved in the activities.

  • Skill transfer
    A critical part of a good heritage conservation strategy that fosters and preserves both tangible and intangible assets, is the issue of heritage skill transfer. Skill transfer can take place in a variety of ways. These include for example, apprenticeships where youth can learn the skills under a master craftsman. (Master craftsmen may in fact be designated as 'living assets' of the local culture, as is done in Japan). Other means of skills transfer include scholarship, academic research and other ways of local learning and doing.

  • The 'Glocalization' phenomenon
    Preserving both tangible and intangible heritage assets has received a boost from globalization processes. This includes the fear of anonymity of a 'global' culture and loss of heritage assets on one hand, but also, on the other hand, the increased access to locally relevant information and tourism opportunities that it brings. This interlinking between the very local and very global aspects is referred to as the 'Glocalization' process - and has clear implications for heritage conservation as well!


Heritage ...
...  and urban identity / pride
...  is more than history
...  needs community participation
 and involvement
...  leads to well-being / human security
...  is critical to job creation
 and poverty alleviation
...  helps preserve intangible local cultures
 strongly influences sustainability goals
...  through localization, contextualization
 and customization.
Heritage Conservation
... strongly influences sustainability goals
A good heritage conservation strategy inherently takes into account, the long term sustainability goals of the region

H
eritage Conservation strongly influences sustainability goals - A good heritage conservation strategy inherently takes into account, the long term sustainability goals of the region

  • Developing a local meaning to sustainability
    Much as a small local problem cumulatively becomes a global problem, sustainability also starts with small, local actions taken individually and on a daily basis. It is these small actions that eventually helps attain broad sustainable development goals. Sustainable development, by its very definition, is local in its meaning!

  • But sustainability is about people
    That is why, at the center of the sustainability thrust, is the ordinary citizen, lending a lifestyle, sustainable or not, that has an eventual influence on the global environment. Sustainability is about changing individual behaviours, about lifestyles choices and about reducing our ecological impacts.

  • Conservation is historical, cultural, and also ecological.
    Using sustainability as an eventual goal in conservation strategies has the added, multiplier benefits that will accrue over time. Conservation has to therefore include issues related not only to cultural and historical, but to ecological and natural assets of the locality as well.

  • Promoting heritage conservation through sustainability goals
    Putting a value to the local assets that we appreciate - historical, cultural and ecological - is the starting point for heritage conservation and preservation. By assigning such a value, we ensure that " ... the needs of the present do not compromise those of future generations" Aiming for longer-term sustainability will include conserving heritage assets as well, because it calls for maintaining a delicate balance between the human need to improve lifestyles and feeling of well-being on one hand, and preserving local resources and ecosystems, on which we and future generations depend.


Heritage ...
...  and urban identity / pride
...  is more than history
...  needs community participation
 and involvement
...  leads to well-being / human security
...  is critical to job creation
 and poverty alleviation
...  helps preserve intangible local cultures
...  strongly influences sustainability goals
 through localization, contextualization
 and customization.
Heritage Conservation
... through localization, contextualization, and customization
A good heritage conservation strategy needs to be localized, contextualized and customized in order for it to succeed and deliver on its goals.

H
eritage Conservation through localization, contextualization, and customization - A good heritage conservation strategy needs to be localized, contextualized and customized in order for it to succeed and deliver on its goals.

  • The elements of a good strategy
    A typical heritage conservation strategy will take into consideration a number of elements, including:
    • understanding the value and need of preserving and conserving local heritage assets for the local community.
    • placing an appropriate balance between the cultural, natural, historical and other heritage assets, both tangible and intangible.
    • defining the role and purpose of heritage conservation, including issues related to governance, education and awareness, finance, technology and related aspects.
    • building local stakeholder's partnerships to identify and act on roles and responsibilities of each stakeholder
    • identifying the risks, challenges, or barriers facing heritage conservation.
    • opportunities or actions to strengthen heritage conservation for different stakeholders, and its monitoring and evaluation.
    Ultimately, it will be the strategy's localization, contextualization and customization that will ensure its short and long term success in preserving the local heritage.

  • Heritage localization
    "Localizing" heritage action refers to the scale of the action. A good heritage conservation strategy will have to ensure that the scale of the action is local and micro in nature, and is - first and foremost - relevant to, and benefits, the local community. It will be small local actions that will cumulatively enable the conservation of heritage assets in the longer term.

  • Heritage contextualization
    "Contextualizing" heritage action refers to the situation of the action. A good heritage conservation strategy will have to ensure that the situation of the local area where the intended action is to take place, is well understood, and is - first and foremost - relevant to, and benefits, the local community. If poverty and low-income households predominate in the locality, then the strategy will have to focus on job creation and income generation as an integral part of the strategy.

  • Heritage customization
    "Customizing" heritage action refers to the need for action. A good heritage conservation strategy will have to ensure that the need for action is understood, and is - first and foremost - relevant to, and benefits, the local community. Understanding this need, and the priority/value placed on heritage by the local community, will be useful to foster their deeper participation and partnership in heritage action.


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Hari Srinivas - hsrinivas@gdrc.org