Showing posts with label safeguarding. Show all posts
Showing posts with label safeguarding. Show all posts

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Heritage in Harbour Grace: when is a church worthless?

The 1892 Cathedral of Immaculate Conception in Harbour Grace, which made the news last September when it was rumoured that it was to be sold to a brewery, has made the news again.

"Harbour Grace cathedral found to be worthless" read the CBC headline, a story which was somewhat buried by breaking political news of the same day.

According to the article, real estate consulting company Altus Group has determined that the building currently has a market value of zero.

Folklorist Steven Zeitlin is the founder of City Lore. Established in 1986, City Lore’s mission is to foster New York City – and America’s – living cultural heritage through education and public programs, working in four cultural domains: urban folklore and history; preservation; arts education; and grassroots poetry traditions. In a 1994 article in Conserving Culture, Zeitlin paraphrases the work of heritage preservationist James Marston Fitch, who argued that "the real value of a place is defined not by dollars and cents but by the quantifiable human energy that was put into it."

Zeitlin argues that local places have value based on the decisions that went into their use, their history as focal points for neighbourhood development, and in how they served to create community.

"Part of our job as cultural conservationists is to find ways to understand and assign value to these intangibles," he writes, "because only by assigning a measurable value can we fight to protect them."

It is an interesting argument, and it will be equally interesting to see how the debate over the future of Immaculate Conception unfolds.

- Dale Jarvis

- photo from
Quotes taken from  S. Zeitlin , "Conserving our Cities' Endangered Spaces" 
in: M. Hufford (ed), Conserving Culture. Urbana, 1994.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Occasional Papers in Intangible Cultural Heritage: Best practices in conservation and safeguarding of ICH

The Intangible Cultural Heritage office of the Heritage Foundation of Newfoundland and Labrador is always working on one type of workshop, presentation, research project, or another. I try to post some things here on the blog, but it seems I rarely have time to go into any great detail on many of the projects we are involved with.

In order to let you know a bit more about what we are working on, and to share some of the ideas we are developing around the safeguarding and best practices for intangible cultural heritage (ICH), I've started an occasional papers publication.  So far, we have two short papers, which deal with the project-based training model we are developing for ICH projects. Thanks to Graham Blair for the design work, and to Nicole Penney and Joelle Carey, our ICH interns, for proof-reading.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Paris Notes: ICH Researchers Forum and UNESCO General Assembly on ICH

I arrived in Paris yesterday, and since then have had a day and a half of interesting meetings and conversations already.

I got here in time Sunday to take in the second half of the Forum of ICH Researchers meeting at la Maison des Cultures du Monde. The first panel session was on community participation in the safeguarding of ICH under the Convention, chaired by Toshiyuki Kono. There were several different papers presented, but the two that interested me particularly were the papers given by Win van Zanten, an ethnomusicologist from the University of Leiden, and Marc Jacobs, the director of the Flemish Interface Centre for Cultural Heritage.

Van Zanten looked at some of the short films on the UNESCO website for Intangible Cultural Heritage (see some of them here). He argued that they were important because they increase the visibility of ICH, but thought that they could do more to document the tradition in relation to community, and that the larger social context could be better documented. He also raised the idea of showing the film back to community, filming their reaction, and include their comments.

Jacobs presented on heritage communities and safeguarding programs, and argued that the critical success factor to safeguarding programs is the presence of a cultural broker, someone who can walk the community through the processes involved in an ICH project. He argued that these mediators are crucial for building bridges, and providing followup that goes beyond pure documentation. It was music to my ears, and a validation of the work we are undertaking with the Heritage Foundation of Newfoundland and Labrador, particularly the project-based training model we are working on, and which we will hopefully be doing more with later this year.

The second panel session was on identifying priority areas for research, facilitated by Harriet Deacon, Hon. Research Fellow at the University of Capetown. I've followed her excellent posts on Twitter @the_archive for a while now, so it was nice to meet her in person. Misako Ohnuki, Deputy Director of the International Research Centre for ICH in Asia and the Pacific Region, who I'd also only ever met online, was first up, talking about documentation as a tool for safeguarding the ICH of communities. Then Deacon and Chiaro Bortolotto talked about their impressive project to document and track current published research on ICH. It was noted that there are gaps in the research, with a large amount of grey literature that has not been documented, and a growing body of practical handbooks, guides and suchlike documents being produced by NGOs which are not part of the academic literature.

The meeting ended with a decision that the Forum should meet again, annually if possible. I'll keep you posted on developments.

This morning was the start of the fourth session of the General Assembly of the States Parties to the Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage at UNESCO Headquarters. It was a fascinating day, with some very interesting comments made by a variety of state party representatives.

One of the topics up for debate was whether there should be a ceiling placed on the number of nominations the secretariat can examine each year for the Convention's Lists, which include the List of Intangible Cultural Heritage in Need of Urgent Safeguarding, and the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. The presentations were insightful and at times passionate. The general consensus was that a ceiling on the number of nominations is necessary because of the time and resources required to properly assess each nomination. But there was also a general sense that the List of Intangible Cultural Heritage in Need of Urgent Safeguarding not be limited, as it represents traditions under particular threat.

There is also a listing of programmes, projects and activities for the safeguarding of intangible cultural heritage considered to best reflect the principles and objectives of the Convention, a list which seems to be somewhat undersubscribed, and it was suggested that due to the small number of listings, a cap not be placed on that list either.

A need for best practices led to many state party representatives talking about the importance of safeguarding ICH, stating that the listing of traditions is less important within their jurisdictions than the active safeguarding of those traditions to ensure they continue at the community level. Many state parties returned to this theme over the course of the day: Austria noted the importance of UNESCO capacity-building initiatives in safeguarding ICH, Cuba talked about the need for ICH training at regional level; Jordan expressed the importance of community-level work in safeguarding ICH; and St Lucia stressed that listing is less important to some regions than the work inventorying and safeguarding. 

All in all, a fascinating day, and a remarkable first look, for me, at how the ICH General Assembly works.

The day ended with a rather remarkable presentation from Mongolia, mixing traditional ethnic costume, high fashion, traditional (and very modern) music, dance, throat singing, gymnastics, contortionism, and hand-balancing. All in a day's work, really.

Sleep, soon, perhaps, with another three days yet to come, and the ICH non-governmental organizations' meeting first thing tomorrow morning!