Academic journal article Asian Culture and History

Open-Air Conservation of Ruins and the Concept of "Non-Dislocation"

Academic journal article Asian Culture and History

Open-Air Conservation of Ruins and the Concept of "Non-Dislocation"

Article excerpt


Most of the on-going debate is about "how" to protect archaeological ruins, whilst at the same time allowing the general public to enjoy them. Today it is clear how important it is, from the actual planning stages of excavations, to interact with experts from other disciplines, who are working on their own findings and offering them up for collective enjoyment. Whatever might be feasible for an indoor museum is not always feasible with an architectonic ruin, as regards both presenting objects with explicative apparatus that determines their significance, and exploring them in a new way when interpretations change or new ideologies are introduced. First of all, conserving excavations is the not the same as conserving a transportable object. In the past many countries in Europe preferred to "present" Roman remains simply as "gardens of ruins", often endeavouring to stand them in sharp contrast with a more recurrent evocation of the original contexts of local life. Recently, with regard to the Roman tradition, there has been a noticeable inversion of trend in musealization operations, according to which the mere "contemplation of ruins" should be replaced by emotional contact with history. The main consequence of these new tendencies is the replacement of an informatics-based and didactic approach to musealization, in favour of a more authentically interpretative approach. Back-up resulting from experimentation in the fields of restoration and conservation becomes indispensible in implementing these new strategies for the musealization of archaeology. Continuous research and the progressive advance of conservation techniques have meant that the need to transfer archaeological remains has been avoided and an improved in situ "presentation" of these remains, both movable and immovable, can now be guaranteed.

Keywords: heritage conservation, archaeological sites, open-air musealization

1. Introduction

When the idea of conservation is also understood as conservation for the general public/tourism there is a risk of coming into conflict with scientific research, and above all with the process of safeguarding remains "abandoned" in the field by research itself. Most of contemporary debate does in fact centre around the criteria for safeguarding archaeological remains in such a way that this can be accomplished without having to affect public enjoyment of the object in question. Today, archaeologists concerned about the future of our past have realised how indispensable it is, from the earliest planning stages of an excavation campaign, to interact with professionals from other disciplines, be they curators, restorers, historians, museologists or museographers, all dealing with their findings in order to deliver them up for collective enjoyment; simply speaking the archaeological heritage is to be considered a public asset and the more the experimentation the greater the possibility that it will not be forsaken or, even worse, destroyed.

It is obviously not possible to treat open-air ruins in the same way as an indoor museographic operation, both with regard to presentation by means of interpretative apparatus defining the significance of the "item" created (Note 1) and to the ways in which it is exhibited; these inevitably change with every fresh interpretation or with the introduction of new ideologies, which "have nothing to do with the objects, but which, however, end up colliding with the general conception of what they represent or how they should be represented". First of all, conserving an excavated site is not the same as conserving a transportable object; any intervention carried out on ruins is always irreversible; no restoration, however big or small, can ever be considered fully reversible (Note 2). In fact there is a recent British Museum paper titled: Reversibility - Does it exist? (Oddy & Carrol, 1999). The concept of irreversibility responds to Ruskinian thinking, which is wholeheartedly embraced by the British archaeological community, with one of the consequences being the almost total refusal of the dominant cultural trend in Germany, i. …

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