Academic journal article Change Over Time

THE VENICE CHARTER AND CULTURAL LANDSCAPES: Evolution of Heritage Concepts and Conservation over Time

Academic journal article Change Over Time

THE VENICE CHARTER AND CULTURAL LANDSCAPES: Evolution of Heritage Concepts and Conservation over Time

Article excerpt

Adopted in 1964, the Venice Charter is considered the philosophical foundation for the field of heritage preservation. Revered, discussed, criticized, and lamented, it, along with its predecessor-the 1931 Athens Charter-has simultaneously influenced national heritage standards around the world and stimulated rich discourse regarding their strengths and their inadequacies. Reflecting on these foundational documents, what cannot be debated is that over time, these charters and associated discussions have inspired heritage preservation specialists worldwide to continually evolve heritage principles. As a result, these standards have become more inclusive of a broader range of cultural values, thus extending the definition of cultural heritage.

This paper provides insights regarding the influence of the Venice Charter, as well as other guidance documents, on the field of cultural landscapes since the late nineteenth century. The discussion highlights contextual events and figures that have influenced values over time, such that the field of cultural heritage has become more broadly inclusive. These influences since the 1964 Venice Charter represent important shifts in heritage concepts and preservation theory, from monument-specific sites to larger landscapes, from local to regional and national scales, and from static fabric to dynamic processes. This evolution has led to both opportunities and challenges for cultural landscape preservation today.

Values, Cultural Heritage, and the Concept of Cultural Landscapes

As ideas of what constitute heritage and preservation have changed over the past century, statements of principle were encapsulated in a variety of international charters, conventions, declarations, and resolutions that collectively documented the evolution in theory and practice of cultural heritage preservation. While there are many aspects to these shifts, this section of the paper focuses on two primary dimensions: changing values resulting in new definitions of cultural heritage, and authenticity. To frame the discussion, ten key international guidance documents that illustrate fundamental shifts related to cultural landscapes are referenced (Table 1). This series of guiding documents provides insight into the changing concepts of heritage, the approach to preservation, and the issues, dilemmas, and sometimes heated debates of different decades.1

The evolution of cultural values, and hence the definitions of cultural heritage, must begin with Alois Reigl's 1903 value definitions for the justification of monument preservation.2 His defined values of commemorative, historic, artistic, age, use, and newness were enthusiastically embraced by historic monument advocates of the time. Those values stood the test of time as they strongly influenced the development of the Athens Charter for the Restoration of Historic Monuments (the Athens Charter) in 1931, and subsequently the International Charter for the Conservation and Restoration of Monuments and Sites (the Venice Charter).3 Yet, several events and leading figures influenced the conceptualization of the field of cultural landscapes before and after the writing of the Athens Charter.

Prior to the twentieth century, French and German geographers advanced their field by moving beyond an understanding of physical geography to include humans and culture in the discussion. This is illustrated by: French geographer Paul Vidal de la Biche's 1880s idea of genre de vie-the belief that the lifestyle of a particular region reflects the economic, social, ideological, and psychological identities imprinted on the landscape; Josef Wimmer's 1885 Historiche Landschaftskunde, which reinforced the need to include humans in the study of geography; as well as Otto Schlüters 1908 concept that the study of geography is the study of landscapes-cultural and natural landscapes.4

Although World War I interrupted the academic strength of French and German geographers, their work continued with further influence from the United States academy. …

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