Heritage inventories inform authorities, scholars, and the public of essential information about heritage resources including their size, location, and significance. They also enable comparison of sites, aiding in categorisation, appraisal of authenticity and integrity, and determination of relative significance—assessments that can assist in prioritizing management interventions. Legislation in many jurisdictions mandates the use of inventories as a means of heritage protection. In addition to their role in public administration, inventories are valuable for research, heritage tourism, and general public interpretation and understanding, because they organise information about cultural heritage (Myers, Avramides & Dalgity, 2013).
Fig. 1 – Sketch of Heritage buildings by Claire Caulfield
Heritage inventories and statutory lists are critical tools for managing cultural heritage in Australia. The inclusion of a cultural site on a statutory heritage list provides legal protection and guidance about permissible or desirable change. It also celebrates, educates, and supports good decision making. Heritage inventories facilitate comparative evaluation, confer status, and inform priorities for resource allocation. In short, heritage inventories make a difference. Many decisions affecting heritage places concern their intended use or proposed physical changes. Where comprehensive inventories exist, these decisions are well informed. Conversely, if the approval system applies provisions to an incomplete or erroneous list, poor decisions and adverse heritage outcomes may result (Logan & Mackay, 2013).
Accurate, complete, accessible, and secure inventories of all types of cultural property are an obvious requirement for the good management of such resources—which include archaeological sites, historic buildings, museums, and archives and libraries. These inventories form the bedrock of most national legislation concerning heritage protection and are a fundamental element of many international conventions, including the 1954 Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict. Unfortunately, such inventories frequently exist only as aspirations. When natural and human-provoked disaster strikes, the lack of good data is cruelly exposed, and significant heritage is often lost, along with the information it contains. Events of the last decade demonstrate the need for such inventories, particularly during armed conflict (Stone, 2013).
Fig. 2 – Sketch of heritage buildings in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia by Sg Ong
Australians are becoming more aware of the importance of conserving our historic heritage. Heritage places and objects provide us with cultural and physical links to the past. They help us understand the broad scope of our past, ‘enrich people’s experiences and understanding’ and reflect ‘the community’s sense of cultural identity’ (Making Heritage Happen). Heritage assets can also contribute to sustainable economic development and prosperity, by:
• providing landmarks that serve as economic development foci and community ‘touchstones’;
• providing one of the most important tourism drawcards in urban centres and regional areas;
• assisting small-scale and short-stay regional tourism such as local bed and breakfast businesses, small art and craft galleries and open garden schemes;
• attracting people and investment by enhancing the amenity or ‘liveability’ of towns and cities;
• creating proportionately more jobs than new construction and providing better local expenditure retention;
• providing environmental benefits through reduced demolition waste and reduced resources required to demolish-and-rebuild.
Heritage is what we inherit, but more specifically what we retain of this inheritance. The heritage value of a place is also known as its cultural significance which means its aesthetic, historic, scientific, social or spiritual value for past, present or future generations. Understanding what is meant by value in a heritage sense is fundamental since ‘Value has always been the reason underlying heritage conservation. It is self-evident that no society makes an effort to conserve what it does not value (Allen Consulting Group, 2005).
Fig. 3 – Sketch of Australian heritage building by Gary Bell
A State’s decision to nominate a property for inclusion on a Heritage List requires a substantial commitment of resources, both physical and financial, that must be balanced with its social, cultural and economic aspirations. To make such a commitment, a State Party must be confident in the system created by the listing. The practices and decisions of the bodies created within this system must be informed, consistent and certain to maintain the confidence of all States Party. A decision to inscribe a nominated property on a heritage list is an endorsement of the values, boundaries and related circumstances of the property as they are detailed in the nomination. Such a decision commits the State to respect the integrity of the property over time in the terms in which it is inscribed. The decision may well form the basis for long term and substantial investment decisions in areas adjacent to or within the property. Decisions on listing must be made on the basis of robust, objective evidence and should draw on the body of knowledge and precedent developed through previous decisions and actions. Listings rely on the consistency and reliability of decisions of the State to implement effective domestic management arrangements that meet their obligations under their listing practices and conventions (Icomos, 2009).
Paul Rappoport – Heritage 21
16 January 2018
Allen Consulting Group, Valuing the Priceless: The Value of Historic Heritage in Australia, Prepared for the Heritage Chairs and Officials of Australia and New Zealand, 2005.
Logan, D & Mackay, R, Inventories and Heritage Management, The Australian Experience, Conservation Perspectives, the GCI Newsletter, Heritage Inventories 2013
Making Heritage Happen – Incentive and Policy Tools for Conserving Our Historic Heritage, Environment Protection and Heritage Council, 2004.
Myers, D, Avramides, Y & Dalgity, A, Changing the Heritage Inventory Paradigm by The Arches Open Source System, Conservation Perspectives, the GCI Newsletter, Heritage Inventories 2013
Stone, P, War and Heritage – Using Inventories to Protect Cultural Property, Conservation Perspectives, the GCI Newsletter, Heritage Inventories 2013.
UNESCO, List of World Heritage in Danger: Criteria and Benchmarks, ICOMOS World Heritage in Danger Compendium II A compendium of key decisions on the conservation of cultural heritage properties on the UNESCO List of World Heritage in Danger, April 2009.