Conservation values in the cultural heritage management – History and memory

Ascribing conservation value to a building or object more often than not also means excluding something else from such valuation. What kinds of buildings have been ascribed value as cultural heritage, and what buildings have gone «under the radar» of cultural heritage management and how has this practice affected the kinds of buildings that are preserved today? Have some been lost or become threatened?

To understand how the perception of collective memory and history has affected the concept of conservation value and the cultural heritage area, this essay explores memory studies and the developing of mindsets in management throughout the twentieth and twenty-first centuries until 2016. Memory, identity and usage of history on the one side and cultural heritage on the other can hardly be understood as separate from each other. The understanding of ourselves and our history affects what kinds of physical traces of our past we ascribe importance to.

Analyses of protected and listed buildings in Møre og Romsdal County indicate that collective memory and identity are, and have been, important for the prioritizing of buildings as cultural heritage. The collection of protected buildings is dominated by mindsets typical of the early twentieth century, but the twenty-first century has seen a broadening in perception of conservation value and building protection. This is supported by the buildings that have been protected since the year 2000, and is further emphasized in the buildings listed in 2015.

The state of protected, listed and other buildings suggests that buildings to which conservation value has not been ascribed may be threatened today or even lost. Even so, the state of the protected buildings indicates that protection is far from a guarantee for preservation. The amount of protected buildings may be a challenge, but there may be time for management to explore ways of collection management, as the museum sector has been encouraged to do lately, and for further emphasis on protection by use.