CRM: The Journal of Heritage Stewardship - Winter 2009
CRM Journal

Introduction


By Barbara J. Little, Editor

When CRM: The Journal of Heritage Stewardship was launched in 2003, scholarly interest in heritage was increasing worldwide. At the time, there were just a few journals with comparable subject matter. Several of these have continued to thrive, including the International Journal of Heritage Studies, The Public Historian, and Public Archaeology. More recently, to meet the growing international interest in heritage, the new journal Heritage Management was launched this year in the U. S. and Springer has a new book series on “Cultural Heritage in a Globalized World.”

Scholarly interest is also reflected in the number of academic research centers for heritage issues. University of Maryland, College Park established the Center for Heritage Resource Studies in 2000. In 2005, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign established the Collaborative for Cultural Heritage and Museum Practices (CHAMP), cross-cutting the Department of Landscape Architecture and the Department of Anthropology. In the last two years, universities have established at least three more heritage study centers. In 2008 the University of Pennsylvania Museum Launched the Penn Cultural Heritage Center. There is a new Center for Heritage and Society at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. Durham University in the United Kingdom has announced the Centre for the Ethics of Cultural Heritage. Antoinette Jackson, one of the contributors to this issue, oversees the Heritage Research Laboratory at the University of South Florida. Readers of CRM may be aware of more examples in the United States and worldwide. If so, please contact the editor with information about them.

As our cultural heritage inspires research and responsible stewardship, there is also a recognized need for professional principles to guide the thoughtful engagement of the broader public. On October 4, 2008 in Quebec, Canada, the 16th General Assembly of ICOMOS ratified the Charter for the Interpretation and Presentation of Cultural Heritage Sites. (Background about the charter is available online: http://www.enamecharter.org/index.html) As the preamble to this new charter states, earlier charters “implicitly acknowledge that every act of heritage conservation—within all the world’s cultural traditions—is by its nature a communicative act.” To strengthen this long-standing concern of heritage work, this new Charter explicitly sets out definitions, seven key principles, and seven objectives.

The principles upon which public interpretation should be based are:

1. Access and Understanding
2. Information Sources
3. Attention to Setting and Context
4. Preservation of Authenticity
5. Planning for Sustainability
6. Concern for Inclusiveness
7. Importance of Research, Training, and Evaluation

The following objectives follow from the principles.

“1. Facilitate understanding and appreciation of cultural heritage sites and foster public awareness of the need for their protection and conservation.

2. Communicate the meaning of cultural heritage sites through careful, documented recognition of their significance, through accepted scientific and scholarly methods as well as from living cultural traditions.

3. Safeguard the tangible and intangible values of cultural heritage sites in their natural and cultural settings and social context.

4. Respect the authenticity of cultural heritage sites, by communicating the significance of their historic fabric and cultural values and protecting them from the adverse impact of intrusive interpretive infrastructure.

5. Contribute to the sustainable conservation of cultural heritage sites, through promoting public understanding of ongoing conservation efforts and ensuring long-term maintenance and updating of the interpretive infrastructure.

6. Encourage inclusiveness in the interpretation of cultural heritage sites, by facilitating the involvement of stakeholders and associated communities in the development and implementation of interpretive programmes.

7. Develop technical and professional standards for heritage interpretation and presentation, including technologies, research, and training. These standards must be appropriate and sustainable in their social contexts.”

This issue’s contents reflect some of these principles and objectives of the new ICOMOS Charter. The research report by John D. Lesak, Benjamin Marcus, and Michael Tornabene highlights issues of careful investigation and documentation, both essential for responsible interpretation and presentation. The reports by Lindsey Dillon and Alex Tarr and by Donna Graves discuss identification projects that involve stakeholders in the identification and stewardship of New Deal heritage and Japantowns, respectively.

David Fixler’s article focuses on the concept of authenticity. He discusses how essential characteristics are identified and preserved during the rehabilitation of buildings from the modern movement. The careful choices made in the process of renovating these buildings speak directly to the ICOMOS Charter’s objective to respect authenticity. His discussion makes it clear that there is nothing automatic about such choices or about the ways in which treatments might be understood by people viewing the buildings. Although the discussion is not about formal interpretation, it is clear that the decisions that go into such projects influence the general public’s understanding about the meanings of modernity and modern architecture.

Because it calls for explicit attention to public understanding, the new Charter challenges heritage professionals to confront historical associations that can be complex and yet are all the more valuable because of the difficult histories which places invoke. Both Antoinette Jackson and Robert Chidester speak directly to the objective of encouraging inclusiveness. Each encourages us to explicitly and objectively confront the legacy of slave-owning and racism in the United States. Jackson interviews descendants of Zephaniah and Anna Kingsley to explore complex meanings associated with Florida’s Kingsley Plantation and nearby places. Chidester analyzes local context in western Maryland for historical misperceptions about slavery. He encourages further research on the Ferry Hill landscape to support public interpretation that could challenge stereotypes.

Principles and objectives specified for the interpretation and presentation of cultural heritage sites inevitably connect to familiar issues in heritage stewardship: authenticity, sustainability, values, and inclusiveness. In addition they encourage all practitioners to recognize the broad relevance of our work to an expanding number of stakeholders.

When Martin Perschler took over the editorship from Antoinette Lee in 2006 (Volume 3, Number 2), he remarked on that challenge “to build on that reputation for editorial excellence, to celebrate that shared tradition of resource stewardship in all its diversity and complexity, and to promote new and innovative ways of achieving those shared goals of resource protection and contemporary relevance.”

I undertake that challenge within the context of a multi-faceted profession focusing increased energy on research, outreach, and stewardship. The pages of CRM will continue to explore a wide variety of topics, including international cooperation, innovative technology, heritage tourism, issues concerning Indigenous people’s heritage, and the ways in which theoretical discussions and innovations are put into practice.

Additional Note to our Readers

CRM is a peer-reviewed journal. We invite our readers to volunteer as reviewers for submitted manuscripts and for media and book reviews. If you are interested in contributing to CRM as a reviewer, please contact the editor at NPS_CRMJournal@nps.gov with your name, email address, mailing address, phone number, and areas of topical and/or geographic expertise.