Source Value Versus Identity: On the Cultural Historic Values in Building Conservation – A Historical Perspective

This article discusses the treatment of historic buildings in relation to their cultural historic values, more specifically documentation and identity values, in a Norwegian context. Both historically and today, the ideals and principles of building conservation waver between a «hands off» conservation orthodoxy and a «hands on» restoration pragmatism; the former with deep respect for material authenticity, the latter more open to reconstruction and adaption. Do the principles used relate to the values ascribed to the historic building? And, while professionals discuss principles, what actually happens in practice? The first part of the article provides a historic backdrop, identifying and presenting significant events and actors in the formative phase of building conservation in Norway, describing a development from a romantic activist phase to save historic monuments, to the scientific and professional institutionalization of cultural heritage management. The second part discusses principles and practice of building conservation with reference to current Norwegian examples.

The historical section of the article is based on a chapter in the author's doctoral thesis, Histories of Architectural Conservation – Five Case Studies on the Treatment of Norwegian Vernacular Heritage Buildings circa 1920-1980.