The Relevance of Heritage Places
thesisposted on 26.06.2013, 12:36 by Christophe Rivet
Why do we care about heritage places? Heritage conservation theory and practice have assumed that these places are intrinsic to the idea of community and that their conservation is of public interest. Yet heritage places, as recognized by governments, do not necessarily have overwhelming support for their conservation, despite better processes to include multiple values. Some elicit a strong sense of connection, others are a ‘foreign country’ to be visited. Finally, some are forgotten though remain officially recognized as part of a ‘national heritage’. The relevance of these places is a deciding factor in their fate. In parallel, the concept of lieux de mémoire (place of memory) highlights the nature of those places that do not require official recognition to exist and to engage communities in their conservation. Their significance often clash with the purpose of legislation and government agencies because these tend to focus on processes based on facts and consensus. The relevance of these places to a community may not be captured and conserved by official means. This thesis explores the expressions of relevance of recognized (official) and unrecognized (unofficial) heritage places by studying the case of Grand Pré in Nova Scotia (Canada), a community with more than a century of official and unofficial heritage status. The case study reveals the various roles and responsibilities emerging from state and community initiatives to highlight differences in the nature of heritage places. By contrasting the roots of the mainstream heritage conservation movement and of the community-driven assignment of value to certain places, this thesis establishes characteristics that distinguish ‘historic places’ from lieux de mémoire. That distinction creates a path towards improved definition, conservation, and relevance of heritage places. This thesis concludes by proposing an approach to conserving heritage places based on their function as an evolution from current values-based conservation.