The International Archives of the Photogrammetry, Remote Sensing and Spatial Information Sciences
Publications Copernicus
Articles | Volume XLII-2/W5
23 Aug 2017
 | 23 Aug 2017

Challenges that Preventive Conservation poses to the Cultural Heritage documentation field

K. Van Balen

Keywords: preventive conservation, principles, integrated approach, documentation requirements, documentation challenges, heritage value, damaging mechanism

Abstract. This contribution examines the challenges posed to the cultural heritage documentation community (the CIPA community and others) in implementing a preventive conservation approach of the built heritage in today’s society. The “DNA” of Preventive Conservation.

Various authors so far support the argument that preventive conservation is an effective way to respond to the challenges society faces with the preservation of its Cultural Heritage (Van Balen, 2013).

A few decades of experiences with the application of preventive conservation in the field of immovable heritage in the form of Monumentenwacht in The Netherland and in Flanders have shown that a good monitoring of the state of preservation with a strong push for maintenance activities contributes to more preservation of authenticity, to more cost-effective preservation and to empowering society in dealing with heritage preservation. (Cebron, 2008)

An analysis of these and similar experiences demonstrates that these “Monumentenwacht” activities represent only a part of what could be named a preventive conservation system. Other fields in which prevention is advocated for its higher efficiency, show the importance of system thinking in the development of improved strategies.

Applying this approach to the field of the immovable heritage, referring to the initial results shown by the Monumentenwacht practices, it becomes clear that different dimension are at stake simultaneously: the preservation of authenticity or integrity, the management of resources and the connection with society. It shows that the analysis of challenges in heritage preservation and the development of strategies is à priori multifaceted and therefor has a certain level of complexity.

The sustainability of the preservation of cultural heritage buildings and sites can be measured according to its multiple economic, social, environmental and cultural support. The Cultural Heritage Counts for Europe report shows that the more diverse the support is for cultural heritage preservation actions, the more those actions will contribute to sustainable development and the more sustainable the preservation of that heritage will be. This reasoning has led to the “upstream approach” which argues that cultural heritage preservation can benefit from a variety of resources which do not necessarily have to be earmarked for it à priori (CHCfE, 2015).

It leads to arguing for an holistic and integrated approach for cultural heritage preservation that taps into different kinds of resources, which requires acknowledgement of the complex nature of understanding and managing heritage values into an overall societal development goal (Vandesande, 2017).

Challenges in the Cultural Heritage documentation field.

Documentation needs in the field of cultural heritage preservation therefor are challenged by the complexity of the sources of information, by the need to integrate them in an holistic tool and by the way they are able to dialogue with society.

1. The proper analysis of heritage requires increasing efforts by the diversity of sources and the complexity of their interaction.This (complexity acknowledging) analysis should be linked to monitoring tools which eventually contribute to monitor culturalheritage values. This monitoring is also a documentation challenge as it has to be pertinent and dynamic. Analysis andmonitoring are important as they are the basis for understand threats that impact heritage values.

2. As resources for heritage development or heritage guided development can have a variety of origins, their documentation andanalysis –compared to the traditional curative object oriented preservation- should be extended to include many more possibleresources. Experiences exist with documentation of the physical environment of heritage sites but the upstream approachpoints toward a larger number of development resources that can be tapped into. This implies the need to identify newapproaches, to document them and to integrate them in a dynamic analytical process.

3. As preventive conservation focusses not only on the empowerment of the owners and managers but also on a betterintegration of a wider group of stakeholders, the question of ownership and continuous co-creation challenges thedocumentation process as well.

4. Longevity of documentation: the need for continuous updating and monitoring as part of the cyclic approach of PC challengesthe longevity, accessibility of the documentation itself and the tools that will use them in the future.