Academic journal article Change Over Time

HERITAGE RECORDING AND INFORMATION MANAGEMENT AS A TOOL FOR PREVENTIVE CONSERVATION, MAINTENANCE, AND MONITORING: The Approach of Monumentenwacht in the Flemish Region (Belgium)

Academic journal article Change Over Time

HERITAGE RECORDING AND INFORMATION MANAGEMENT AS A TOOL FOR PREVENTIVE CONSERVATION, MAINTENANCE, AND MONITORING: The Approach of Monumentenwacht in the Flemish Region (Belgium)

Article excerpt

Prevention Is Better Than Cure

It is common knowledge that-with the exception of calamities such as fire, earthquakes, and other disasters-monuments decay in a gradual process and very often major damage is the result of minor accumulated damage that has not been maintained in due time. Preventive care, monitoring, and maintenance1 have been gaining momentum and significance in the past decade due to the fundamental sustainability, cost-effectiveness, and nondestructive nature of the approach.2 Regular attention and maintenance can slow down the process of decay or, in specific cases, even partially prevent it. That is why an organization was founded, first in the Netherlands, then in Belgium, and later in other European countries, based on the very elementary notion that prevention is better than cure-in this case applied to cultural heritage.3

In 1931 the Athens Charter for the Restoration of Historic Monuments first called for maintenance instead of restoration. Then the Venice Charter (1964) clearly stated that the significance of the built cultural heritage can only be sustained if the physical assets are maintained appropriately and systematically.4 Regular maintenance is thus the optimum strategy for the conservation of heritage, causing the least possible damage to its cultural significance. Maintenance planning, including systematic monitoring and maintenance practices, were listed as one of the main benefits of conservation planning to which heritage recording is of critical importance.5

The concept of Monumentenwacht, which could be translated as monument surveillance, was first conceived in the Netherlands in 1973 as a direct consequence of the paradigm shift that the Venice Charter proposed, favoring for the first time maintenance over restoration. The Monumentenwacht organization offers an inspection system focusing on maintenance and preventive conservation. The Flemish Region followed the Dutch example and a similar organization was founded in 1991. Even though both its basic concept and its function are fundamentally inspired by the Netherlands model, the Flemish organization has evolved in its own right and has gained an indispensable position in the field of cultural heritage conservation. Its specific role is recognized by both provincial and regional governments and is integrated in their cultural heritage policies.

Mission

The mission of Monumentenwacht, being a nonprofit organization and an independent advisory body, is to empower, stimulate, inform, and support its members in the care and preservation of their heritage sites. The main aim is to support local caretakers and thereby, in the long term, to reduce expenses and significant losses of heritage for all stakeholders. The support given to its members and the core activity of the organization is the execution of regular condition and risk assessments. Additional support services to its members include on-site advice, publications, help-desk assistance, workshops, and demonstrations. In the case of preventive care and maintenance, the link with local caretakers is crucial since the first stewards and inspectors of historic buildings are their inhabitants/caretakers/managers who are in charge of their daily care. Nigel Dann remarks that "considerable knowledge and understanding of the stock resides with those with day-today interaction with the portfolio"6 as they are often the first to carry out checkups and urgent repair.7 Inspections for monitoring and maintenance, and consequently their reports, carry a fundamental role for a preventive approach in conservation. Organized daily care of historic buildings also bears a significant potential for community involvement and a consequent raising of awareness, as has been acknowledged by the Council of Europe at the Faro Convention in 2005.

Context

The first Monumentenwacht organization was founded in the Netherlands in the 1970s.8 It was established through the initiative of some monument owners and heritage officers who wanted their investment - in restoration - to be efficient in the long term. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.