Role of Conservation in Preserving Cultural Heritage!

Heritage has been described as the “fingerprint of generations”. It refers to any prominent destination or object which is to be passed on to the future generations. While over the years, the term heritage has been used only to refer to the transfer of something from one generation to another; heritage is actually of two types- natural heritage and cultural heritage. Natural heritage comprises everything that comes in the biological sphere including flora, fauna, geological formations etc. Cultural heritage, on the other hand, is the legacy that is inherited from our ancestors, maintained in the present and passed on to the future generations for their benefit. For any nation, cultural heritage has always held an important place.

Famous monuments of the World

It is through cultural heritage that one generation feels connected to the others.

What is Cultural Heritage?

Stone Chariot - Hampi
Madeleine Church - Paris

According to UNESCO, the term cultural heritage comprises tangible objects and the intangible. Under tangible cultural heritage you have paintings, sculptures, coins, manuscripts etc. Under immovable cultural heritage you have monuments, archeological sites etc. Under underwater cultural heritage you have shipwrecks, underwater ruins etc. Intangible cultural heritage, on the other hand, comprises oral traditions, customs, folk art, performance arts etc.

In other words, cultural heritage is nothing but the expression of living that has been developed by the ancestors of a community and is passed on from one generation to another.

Importance of Cultural Heritage

Vamana temple, Khajuraho

The heritage buildings, including archeological remains, of an area are a representation of its culture and history. Cultural heritage keeps us connected with our traditions, customs, religion, beliefs and community identities. It is also what gives each community and the country on the whole, its individual identity. Cultural heritage is also something that gives the people a sense of unity and helps them understand their origins.

Now that we have learned about cultural heritage and its importance, let us learn about its connection to building designs:

The Relation Between Building Designs and Culture!

Heritage conservation is the actions or processes that aim at protecting a cultural resource in order to maintain its heritage value. It has proven to be extremely beneficial over the years. The conservation of historical buildings helps in enhancing their overall impact by protecting their values.

When it comes to protecting cultural heritage, Libya is a hub for ancient and historic cultures. Most of the greatest and ancient civilizations of all time saw their origins here, such as the Ancient Greek civilization, as well as the Roman, Islamic, Byzantine and Phoenician empires. All these civilizations have had a huge impact on the world’s culture, not only through their traditions but also through the structures they left behind. How these architectural structures have an influence in building design is something that needs a bit of pondering, however, five sites from these civilizations have gained recognition by being named as UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

Sabratha Theatre, Libya
Colosseum, Rome

The Old City of Ghadames is a huge desert city in Libya and is one of the region’s major heritage sites. The city played a huge role in the exchange of trade and culture between the Mediterranean and African regions for more than 1,400 years. Due to the site’s rich cultural value, the city was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1986. The conservation of the Old City of Ghadames will further help in the conservation of Libya’s culture for the future generations. The city’s classification as a World Heritage Site has also made it an important tourist destination.

Khajuraho Group of Monuments

The Khajuraho Group of Monuments in Madhya Pradesh, India is another very prominent cultural heritage site. Declared as the World Heritage Site on October 15, 1982 by UNESCO, the Khajuraho Group of Monuments is a group of Hindu and Jain temples that were built during the Chandella Dynasty. However, it was under the Gurjara-Pratihara dynasty that the prominence of the site grew. The fusion of Jain and Hindu traditional architecture and sculptures is very evident in this group of temples and out of the original 85 temples, only 22 remain today. It has become a necessity to protect these temples so that the coming generations can witness the glory of the past.

Architectural styles in India have been going through a constant evolution through last few centuries.…

City of Bath

The City of Bath has been mentioned in several literary works over the years and is one of the most prominent heritage sites in England. Located in Somerset, Bath was founded in the 1st century AD by the Romans. Initially, Bath was established by the Romans, who used the natural hot springs as a spa. During the medieval period, it became an important centre for the wool industry. The City of Bath was also referred to as the spa town during the 18th century AD and many literary works describe it is as a fashionable a city. The city is still preserved carefully to exhibit the ruins of the Roman Empire and the works of Venetian architect Andrea Palladio.

Machu Picchu
Pyramids of Giza
Serengeti National Park

These are some examples of prominent heritage sites in the world. There are many more such sites around the world, like the Pyramids of Giza, the Serengeti National Park, and the Historic Sanctuary of Machu Picchu etc. Tourism has played an important role in the development of these destinations. Every year, some festival or the other is celebrated around the towns in order to preserve the traditional architecture and culture of the place.

Damage to Historical Buildings

Heritage Building Damages& Restoration

Many cultural heritage sites are undoubtedly very old, dating back to 5 BC or even before then. Therefore, it is inevitable for these sites to deteriorate over a period of time. Small defects can cause serious problems and can even lead to the destruction of the entire building. Then, even though these structures will exist in books, they will no longer have a physical presence, depriving the future generations from being able to witness themselves first-hand.

Historical buildings and other structures become victims of damage due to improper maintenance and by getting affected by the weather conditions. Additionally, the degradation of these structures has been accelerated by various chemicals, physical, and biological actions. The inclusion of modern amenities in these old heritage sites also causes damage.

Maintenance of heritage

Over the years, those were living in these heritage sites slowly moved out, leaving no one behind to maintain them on a regular basis. Timely maintenance helps the buildings survive for a longer period of time. Nonetheless, with people abandoning these buildings, heritage sites are gradually losing their importance. In many instances it can be seen that the people are gradually selling these small heritage properties for money or other reasons. Although it is helpful to the economy, it is leading to the destruction of the representation and remnants of cultures and traditions. The old buildings are being demolished and newer ones are being constructed in their place, leading to the degradation of these sites.

Cultural Heritage and Tourism

Culture and Tourism

Culture and tourism have always gone hand in hand for local development. Researchers have found that 37% of the world’s tourism is boosted because of cultural importance. When it is about tourism, the importance of preserving cultural heritage sites becomes extremely crucial. Heritage visitors specifically focus on staying longer for different reasons and also tend to spend more money than other tourists.

It is a proven fact that heritage visitors tend to stay longer than general visitors, therefore, cultural tourism plays an important role in boosting the economy of the country. The presence of cultural heritage can act as great support to the flourishing tourism industry and their impact can be observed in a few countries. These heritage sites, however, are being exploited from time to time to introduce new jobs, which in turn is helping the tourism sector flourish.

With the right heritage tourism, the economy of the country can be significantly boosted. Cultural tourism has given a great boost to the GDP of many nations. It can be noted that heritage tourism not only benefits the visitors but also the residents who get to experience a renewed pride in their city.

What is Cultural Heritage Preservation?

Cultural Heritage Preservation

Cultural Heritage Preservation refers to the process of preserving or safeguarding the elements of the heritage element so as to protect its value, thereby increasing its physical life.. Heritage conservation refers the process of preserving the buildings in ways that do not mean a major alteration to the structure, like repairs. It is aimed at maintaining the building in its proper form, mostly retaining as much of the architectural qualities as possible. It helps prevent the risk of demolition, replacement, or restoration, which may prove to be quite expensive.

Although it is more expensive to preserve an old monument than to build a new skyscraper, old monuments are very crucial when it comes to teaching and showing the legacy of the past to the future generations. Preservation and restoration play a major role in cultural heritage as they let us learn about the past. It also helps us respect those who lived years before we were even born.

Heritage Conservation has proven to be extremely beneficial for property owners, businessmen and others. Experts suggest that preserving the entire heritage has only proven to be effective for buildings. The reuse and rehabilitation policies have had a huge impact in the contemporary functionality. According to The World Heritage Convention (Published in Convention Concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage), heritage refers to “monuments, sites and group of buildings”. This may vary from archaeological sites to that of heritage roads, industrial sites and landscapes. Both, architectural and urban heritage preservation has had a huge impact. More than the rural, urban heritage conservation is given more importance.

Restoration of Konark Temple

The rapid growth in population has proven to be a threat to the conservation of heritage sites. The imbalance between ancient culture and contemporary civilization has also proven to be harmful, which is further preventing the growth of historic cities for the future.

The easiest way to maintain the relationship of the future and present with the past is through heritage monuments. The demolition of these monuments would mean breaking the connection. To preserve the memory, urban conservation came into being.

The renewal of these heritage properties has become an important aspect especially in cities that have a rich historical past. The countries having a rich cultural heritage are working towards preserving the humanitarian service for the community and society in general. Several leading national and international organizations such as Aga Khan Institute, UNESCO and Arab Towns Organization have come together to provide materialistic and scientific support for the preservation efforts.

Methods and Policies of Heritage Conservation

Conservation of Heritage

Conservation of heritage ranges from consolidation to reproduction, reconstruction, rehabilitation, restoration and preservation of sites. This preservation of sites is not only important from a historical point of view, but also a cultural point of view. The presence of these historical buildings bridges the gap between the past and the future.

Rehabilitation contributes towards protecting the buildings of both architectural and urban importance. As the age advances, both ancient and contemporary methods should be used to ensure the protection of the buildings. Although not impossible, protection and restoration are complex actions and there are several factors that need to be considered to ensure that things go well.

Restoration of Heritage Buildings

When attempting to begin preservation procedures, utmost care should be taken to ensure that a balance is in maintained between the historical and the architectural value of the respective monument.

The proposed function type, however, always varies depending on the origin of the adaptation of the process. How the monument or site will be recovered and rehabilitated also depends on how the protection is to be done and what is the proof of ownership.

Preserving a heritage site requires the undertaking of various stages such registering, describing the site, taking photos of the areas that need to be restored, and taking measurements.

While preserving the cultural heritage, it becomes extremely important to be familiar with the smallest details. Over the years, by following several procedures, several heritage sites, residential and commercial buildings have been preserved and protected.

Azem Palace of Damascus, Syria

Al Azem Palace in Damascus, Syria is one of the finest examples of a restored heritage site. The palace was built in the 18th century AD, but since then, it has become an indispensable part of the country’s culture. The government authorities are thorough about maintaining the property. The palace has also been transformed into a museum and special care of each space is taken. The Al Azem Palace is reminiscent of Syria’s ancient culture and its people.

Khan Murjan building

Another building that has been rehabilitated using the new methods of preservation is the Khan Murjan building in Baghdad, Iraq. This building from the Mughal era contains the rich decorations and designs from this time period and belongs to one of the most famous Khans of Baghdad. It was eventually turned into a museum and is now a wonderful tourist restaurant. A visit to this place will certainly give one a glimpse of the past. Like this architectural marvel, many ancient archaeological sites have been transformed in order to protect them from the wrath of the expanding cities.

Cultural Preservation: The Emotional Touch

Museums have played an important role in bringing the past to the present. It is in museums that most of the ancient items, such as paintings, sculptures etc. are preserved and displayed. Most of the artefacts in the museums are a representation of the people from certain communities and they contribute towards the passing of knowledge and skills from one generation to another.

Sukhothai Historical Park

These ancient artefacts have always played an important role in developing the emotional connect between the generations. For example, the artefacts of Buddha are worshipped by thousands of people from a specific community, bringing in an emotional connection.

Cultural heritage over time has become an important part of our lives as it helps us stay connected to our ancestors. Therefore, it helps develop the connection between the past and the future, which is why the common man should also strive to enhance the protection and conservation of these heritage buildings, sites, and artefacts.

Conservation should have an important role to play in the preservation of local and traditional architecture. Apart from the preservation, the development and protection agencies are now depending on the rehabilitation and reuse policy so as to ensure better tenure and idea of the being. Both, government agencies and local people should come out in support of the restoration of such sites.

On a final note, seeing how important cultural heritage is to not only keep the memories of the past generations alive, but to also generate income for the local communities and the country at large, it is clear why conservation efforts are necessary and indispensable. So, this was all about cultural heritage preservation. If you have like this article, I am so sure that you will love our most read articles listed below:

A Short Guide: Architectural Styles Through the Ages!
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Image Courtesy: Image 1Image 3Image 5, Image 8, Image 13, Image 15, Image 16, Image 17, Image 18, Image 21

Author Bio

Kazi Ubaid – Kazi Ubaid is a freelance writer, professional blogger, ghost writer and lifelong learner with an ongoing curiosity to learn new things. He uses that curiosity, combined with his experience as a freelance business owner to write about subjects valuable to small business.

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