Archive for the ‘Global Heritage’ Category

Japan Ancient and Modern

October 17, 2016

There is a wonderful aesthetic unique to Japan.  It is spare and austere. Like some modern architecture, there is a reduction that forces you to focus.

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This is more than the Western wannabe of the Zen garden, which appealed so much to the warlords of the Kamakura period.  Like modern Americans, they subscribed to a code of self-centered self-reliance.  Perhaps there is more room for the self when the field of view is not cluttered.

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There is an ancient aesthetic in Japan that is more than simply simplicity.

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It is more than the voids in the landscape scrolls and screens which are not voids at all, but undelineated space for the viewer to enter.

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It is an understanding that art, like nature, is there to direct your attention, and that the object and viewer only exist together.

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But what strikes me on this tour as we bask in contemporary art and architecture, is the unbroken connection between ancient and modern Japanese art, architecture and aesthetics.  I have always seen how Tadao Ando loved concrete the way a temple builder loves wood, and to see the stacked bark roofs and the lovingly polished Ando concrete is to see an appreciation of materiality that goes back a millennium or more.

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We visited the Miho Museum in Shiga prefecture, lovingly designed by the American architect I. M. Pei with reference to and reverence for place.  This was a stunning museum experience not only because the building was primarily underground, but because each gallery focused on a limited number of items and displayed each to its fullest, beginning with a Syrian mosaic and a massive leaning Gandhara Buddha (photography is not allowed in the exhibits so we will have to make do without the objects.)

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Each room had perhaps six to eight pieces – Greek sculpture, Persian relief, Egyptian statuettes but the lighting and presentation were exquisite and you realized you saw more and retained more than the typically more “full” gallery.  Perhaps you can see the forest through a single tree.

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Our Japanese guide is constantly reminding us that our amazing meals are meant to be enjoyed with our eyes as well as our mouth, and even the bento box caresses each item with its own frame, its own box to present it as a more satisfying experience.

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We went to Naoshima island and saw Chichu museum, designed by Tadao Ando a dozen years ago.  Again, the museum is largely underground and was designed to display but three artists – the Frenchman Claude Monet and the Americans James Turrell and Walter de Maria.  Again, no photographs are allowed, but each artist had a space and there were a total of eight works – five Monet, three Turrell and one de Maria, and the experience was fulfilling.

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The Benesse Museum on Noashima has been around a quarter-century but it, too, is very spare in presentation – an entire triple-height room devoted to a single Bruce Nauman piece, a skylit courtyard devoted to another piece, and Sugimoto’s photos that are displayed on exterior walls and even a mile away in the distance.

benesse-museum-sugimoto-upThe Japanese aesthetic was perhaps most pronounced at the Teshima Art Museum on a nearby island.  It is a concrete shell structure of the most exquisitely polished concrete I have seen, meant to house a single work consisting of water droplets that emerge from the floor and flow at various speeds in various directions.  Architect Ryue Nishizawa and artist Rei Naito.  Mesmerizing, liberating.

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We saw much more and I could say more, but I won’t right now.

World Heritage Festival and Saving San Antonio

September 13, 2016

Last weekend was the first annual World Heritage Festival here in San Antonio, celebrating one year since the inscription of the San Antonio Missions as a World Heritage Site.  Having spent my career in heritage, this is exciting for me because now I live, work and play in a World Heritage site for the first time in my life.

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Except for that five weeks in the Wachau in 2005…

wh-banners-at-yeThis is where I live

The festivities for the World Heritage Festival began on Thursday with the groundbreaking for the new San Pedro Creek project.  You may recall that San Pedro Creek, which feeds into the San Antonio River down near Mission Concepción, was what the Spaniards first named San Antonio 325 years to the day before I moved in.   Thursday’s event included an opera commissioned by the County celebrating the confluence of cultures that is San Antonio, and a water fountain, because how else do you “groundbreak” a creek?

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Friday we had the second example of “Restored By Light”, a projection that drew thousands to San Jose Mission to see its original colored facade restored by light after dusk.  Last year Mission Concepción got similar treatment, and this year they upgraded,  illuminating both the main facade and both facades of the tower.  It was both a spectacular communal event and an object lesson in how best to treat heritage in the 21st century.

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Saturday was the 22-mile Tour de las Misiones bike ride, which I quite enjoyed, and while I ride the Mission Reach of the River Walk daily, this was a chance to do surface roads with about 400 others (including a police escort).

heritage ride at alamo.jpgTour de las Missiones hears about the layers of history at the Alamo from a costumed interpreter.

There were more festivities on Saturday night and on Sunday the four missions which are active parishes held masses celebrating World Heritage, so of course I was at Mission Concepción, because Father David Garcia is the Director of the Old Spanish Missions, a superior speaker, and the mariachis there are the BEST!

mission-concepcio-mass2sI used to go to a church built in 1909.  This one is 180 years older.

Now, right in the middle of all this festivity, the new edition of Saving San Antonio by Lewis F. Fisher (Trinity University Press) was released, which brings the story of preservation in San Antonio up to the present day.  This was great, because it quotes our President Janet Dietel about important contemporary issues like the effort to save the Crockett and Woolworth Buildings on Alamo Plaza, as well as the 1968 Wood Courthouse/United States Pavilion.

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Crockett Building (left) and the first peacefully integrated Woolworth’s lunch counter in the south, two buildings to the right.

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Wood Courthouse/United States Pavilion

The Rivard Report covered the festival extensively (that guy is everywhere!) and expressed the hope of many San Antonians that it become an annual affair.

 

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A Reconstruction Avoided: Tustan

August 7, 2016

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Ten years ago this November.  My blog covered the event.

That is Vasyl Rozhko at the end of the table with me to his right.  I was in the Ukraine at the invitation of Myron Stachkiw (pointing at left) and other heritage experts, including Henry and Chris Cleere and Taissa Bushnell.  Rozhko’s father had spent his life documenting over 4000 post holes carved into 55-million year old rock outcroppings along a river in the Carpathian mountains.

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L1000367_1Photograph copyright Felicity Rich, 2006

The elder Rozhko had basically mapped out the extensive wooden fortress that guarded this site as a toll post from the 9th through 14th centuries, and it had been his dream to reconstruct the fortress.

vasyl tustan'Our team of international experts urged them not to attempt reconstruction.  Architecturally, in the absence of plans or photographs, it is generally impossible to know exactly what things looked like.  Moreover, the medieval wooden fort at Tustan had been added onto regularly for centuries.

tustan interp5The layers of construction at Tustan.

You also have the interpretation problem caused by reconstruction, which George Skarmeas identified last week at the Alamo Plaza presentation:  once you build something, docents and tour guides which soon describe it as authentic.  You create a false sense of history.

L1000413_1At the time of my 2006 visit, I had already been teaching courses in interpreting historic sites for some time and I knew something about audience engagement.  I pointed out that visiting the rocky outcrops, seeing the carved post holes and stair channels and even historic graffiti, gave tourists a sense of discovery.  When they saw the artifacts in the museum and the illustrations above, they could re-create the site in their mind.

tustan gate w-illoS This is the most effective kind of interpretation because it requires the active imagination of the visitor, creating a much richer experience and insuring that what is learned is retained.  You build your mind muscles.

L1000417_1You can also build other muscles climbing the rocks.

This was not always an easy sell in the Ukraine, which had rebuilt an important church destroyed by the Soviets (which they had good documentation of) and where they even proposed reconstructing the Desiatynna church that had been destroyed 800 years earlier by the Mongols (for which they had NO clue beyond the foundations).

governor's palace, williamsburg virginiaold postcard of the Governor’s Palace, Williamsburg, Virginia

Reconstruction used to happen here in the West, especially during the period between the Athens (1931) and Venice (1964) charters when our field was in its infancy.  Skarmeas pointed to the famous 1930s example of Williamsburg, where the Governor’s Palace was reconstructed based on the foundations and a SINGLE 17th century drawing of the exterior.

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Thirty years later, Jane Addams’ Hull House was reconstructed based on an 1897 painting that showed a hipped roof, despite the fact that 1893 PHOTOGRAPHS of the actual gabled roof existed.  (I did the definitive research on this back in the day)  You see, reconstruction can reinforce a false interpretation and thus take you in the direction AWAY from authenticity.  That’s why we avoid it.

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Besides, we live in the age of virtual reconstruction, when you can assemble bits into wonderful renderings of how things looked and make it available to everyone with a phone.  In fact, I was excited to learn that this is exactly what has happened at Tustan, where 3D models and virtual renderings of the fortress over time have obviated the need for misleading reconstruction.

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It is encouraging to see how technology has helped reverse the more destructive tendencies of early-20th century heritage conservation.  It is very encouraging for me personally to see the progress at Tustan (and the advancement of Vasyl Rozhko!).  Preservation has always been a future-oriented enterprise, and the 21st century is proving that out which each new decade.

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Heritage in the Age of Virtual Reconstruction

October 27, 2015

I was going to write this blog on Saturday when I heard the legendary Harold Kalman speak at the National Trust for Canada conference in Calgary.  I had the honor of being the opening keynote speaker on Thursday night, and Harold won at least two awards on Friday night, including one for lifetime achievement.  Notwithstanding his elder statesman role, he had some keen insights into where heritage is in 2015, and the keenest came when he answered the inevitable question.

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Temple of Bel, Palmyra, Syria.  BEFORE.

I got this question a lot during my years at Global Heritage Fund:  What can we do about the destruction of monuments by Daesh (ISIS) as recently happened in Palmyra?  Hal Kalman had an interesting answer distinguished by its lack of urgency.  Monuments get damaged and destroyed.  The Parthenon was pretty well blown to bits in the 17th century.  That Roman bridge I saw in the Ossola Valley got blown up in World War II, and yet there it is.

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Kalman’s response was neither cavalier nor a call for reconstruction.  Indeed, the preceding discussion had focused on the 21st century approach to heritage – which was of course my topic Thursday night – which is an approach that has shifted from the preservation of physical materials to VALUES and ASSOCIATIONS.  This is the basis of reforms I have proposed in the U.S. and elsewhere.  Since the 1999 Burra Charter and the 2003 ICOMOS statement on intangible heritage, we have evolved to a new understading of What. We. Are. Trying. To. Preserve.

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From VOA TV Ashna via Twitter and Lionsroar.

Yesterday we saw these stunning images of 3-D holographic projections of the famed Bamiyan Buddhas in Afghanistan.  Undertaken by a wealthy Chinese couple, the virtual reconstruction of the Buddhas destroyed by the Taliban in February 2001 has garnered a ton of attention.  Have you heard of the Bamiyan Buddhas?  Of course you have.  And has their destruction by the Taliban erased them from your memory?  Have they been erased from our collective patrimoinie?  Au contraire.

I posted this on Facebook this morning and a friend commented “Would love to see this site someday.”  Think about that for a minute.  Didn’t the Taliban destroy it despite the protestations of millions around the world?  Isn’t it GONE?

No.  We want to see it and now we have the technology to do so.  We have been using technology to supplement and animate heritage sites for decades and the technology keeps getting better.  Heck, even in the 1960s you could go to Rome and by a book showing ancient Roman sites as they are with acetate pages that flipped onto the surviving elements and allowed you a vision of what the site looked like 2000 years before.

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Basilica of Maxentius NOW

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Basilica of Maxentius THEN

Hal Kalman quoted several recent scholars, including Australia’s Laurajane Smith and my friend Ned Kaufman who have focused on the preservation of values and associations.  The values and associations of the Bamiyan Buddhas have not gone away – you could argue that their physical destruction has even intensified those values and associations.

Now of course there are still the fragments, the niches in the walls, the valley context, so in many ways they are currently in a physical state not unlike the Basilica of Maxentius.  Unlike Louis Sullivan’s Chicago Stock Exchange, they have not been replaced by a careless hulk that not only erases but replaces their context.

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might make a nice hologram…

This is not to say we don’t want authenticity.  Indeed, the entire heritage enterprise is about authenticity and that is key to my call for the reform of historic preservation practice in the United States.  Authenticity is not found only in buildings or fragments of buildings.  As the Nara Document on Authenticity (1994) stated:

“authenticity judgements may be linked to the worth of a great variety of sources of information. Aspects of the sources may include form and design, materials and substance, use and function, traditions and techniques, location and setting, and spirit and feeling, and other internal and external factors.”

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Shinto temple, Ise, Japan.  A thousand years old and rebuilt every generation. Authentically.

Heritage is not a luxury, it is a fundamental social value that differentiates us from beasts.  The whole world is poised right now – as they have been since the start of the Syrian civil war – to run in and do something about all of this world heritage as soon as they are able.  Daesh (ISIS) has mobilized concern for sites of outstanding universal value just as the Taliban did before them, and contrary to their supposed motivations, they are increasing the value and association of these sites.

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Warsaw was rebuilt after World War II because it had to be and because we had incredibly good, precise documentation of what it looked like.  The Parthenon has been partly and may someday be entirely put back together despite the vandalous use of it as an ammunition depot by the Ottomans and the even more vandalous Venetian volleys that pelted it with a thousand shells during the siege of 1687.  The temple had survived incredibly intact until that point.

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But at least we have Nashville….

If we understand heritage in a mature way, and we welcome it as a future enterprise in an age of virtual reconstruction, the infantile destroyers will never be able to take it away from us.  It is like travel itself, not only a wonderful investment in your education and understanding, but an investment that cannot be stolen from you while you breathe.  You can take away a stone or knock down an arch or blow up a statue but you cannot take away our memories, our thoughts, our values, and our social conscience.

Strategic Thinking and the Heritage of Every Single Day.

September 9, 2015

One of the many benefits of my three years in Silicon Valley, buttressed by 30 years of serving on non-profit Boards of Directors  (I whittled it down to four recently.  Well, five.)  is that I have been steeped in strategic thinking and strategic planning.  While this may seem like a normal exercise to the MBA crowd, it is something that tends to be lacking in the historic preservation/heritage conservation field.

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Aaugh HELP they are tearing it down!!!  NOW!!

I have to give credit to my sister Clare Bergquist for this insight, because my tendency was to look at my recent work and think it was just more of the same.  The stuff I always did.  I was always the pragmatic, economically sensible preservationist in the room.  Clare noted, correctly, that my approach is actually strategic, a quality in short supply in our field.

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For good reason ofttimes.

We tend to think of preservationists (I use the U.S. term grudgingly) as: advocates focused on the short term goal of saving something; bureaucrats focused on current policies for saving something; artists and architects focused on the significance of beauty; historians and community activists focused on the beauty of significance; or wonks focused on balancing the old and and new for economic reasons, which are notoriously short-term.  None of these are positions of strategic thinking.

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1000 square feet, $4650 a month.  Built 1908 as a hunting lodge.  Great location, for now.

So I think about the business mentality of Silicon Valley, the business sense of my sister Clare and the economic pragmatism I have brought to the heritage conservation field since I first waded in over 32 years ago.   I remember that blog I wrote four years ago about being in the middle of a strategic planning process on the Board of Landmarks Illinois and the National Trust for Historic Preservation at the same time.  Did it again at Global Heritage Fund, and I have been especially doing it the last few years as I try to outline a future for our field that includes all peoples.

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The luxury of perspective

I have been writing recently about the need to improve our heritage tools in the United States in order to reflect the diversity of American history and the diversity of the American people, and it came to some extent out of my international work, where we have the advantage of needing to connect with very diverse cultures and geographies.

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Siebenburgen, oder?

How do we connect?  The answer is in a culturally specific way in every single case and place.  It is the opposite of the lawyerly idea of precedent.   I have said for many years there is a PROCESS (see the Burra Charter) that works anywhere because it engages community and culture.  It isn’t about museums or monuments because the only thing that can save a resource or tradition is a group of people who need or desire to use that resource or tradition EVERY SINGLE DAY.

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We will have a Learning Lab on this at the National Preservation Conference in DC in November.

I was explaining this to someone at the California College of the Arts last week and they said simply “I have never heard anyone talk about historic preservation that way.”  I realized that my sister was right and I have had the great fortune to explore this field for so long from so many perspectives and so many geographies.  I took a great risk leaving a tenured endowed Chair at a major university to move to California and run an international conservancy.  What is the payoff?

“I have never heard anyone talk about historic preservation that way.”

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Also I got to go to Libya.  After Benghazi, so there is that…

No headway can be made in any field without taking risks.  I was fortunate to have the opportunity to take some risks and view this field from a whole variety of angles, and I am now convinced more than ever what we need to do.  I am very grateful I have had this summer to view my field and my experience from the distance required to think strategically.

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And the specific steps we need to take

The latest revelation came in my last blog, when I reflected on the huge opportunity I had to present my ideas to the National Tribal Preservation Conference.  Indian country reminded me that yes, heritage is about culture, and yes, it is about community, but it is also about continuity.  The greatest mischief of our High Modernist 1960s historic preservation was not even its surrender to the methods and objectives of architecture, but its assumption that the past lay at a distance, across a gulf that could not be bridged.

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The Romans built the bridge.  The Allies bombed it.  But there it is.

Heritage conservation is first and foremost about community, aiding them in identifying what elements of their past they want, need and can use in the future.  Helping them evaluate the significance of their cultural inheritance and determine what the appropriate treatments are for each specific context.  There are no precedents, although there are analogues, and there are experts, but they are nothing without community support.  The heritage must be made part of the economic everyday.  It must be resources and artifacts and traditions and rituals and languages and landscapes that are used EVERY SINGLE DAY.

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Even when no one is watching….

Community.  Culture.  Continuity.  This is how I continue to talk about heritage and I am so very pleased at the many opportunities unfolding that allow me to continue this important work.

World Heritage in Texas!

July 5, 2015

This is the time of year new World Heritage sites are inscribed by UNESCO.  The total number passed 1000 last year, after over 40 years of the program.  As I have noted before, the United States has not taken advantage of World Heritage status in many years, partly due to a political funding dispute.  Absurdly, the U.S. has refused to pay its UNESCO dues for many years, so even though we can arguably afford to take care of our sites, at World Heritage level, we are deadbeats.

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The Alamo.  Remember?

Many developing nations sought WH inscription to promote sites for tourism and development, but lacked the resources it takes to produce a verifiably management plan for each site, hence groups like Global Heritage Fund.

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Sacro Monte, Ossola valley, Italy

I had the honor of speaking on the subject of architecture and heritage at this World Heritage site in Italy on my birthday last week.  Italy has more WH sites inscribed than any other country, which is not surprising given the influence of its histories and designs on the rest of the world.  Still, it is good to finally see U.S. sites attaining this status and it is especially exciting for me that a site a few hundred yards from my birthplace now has been recognized for its outstanding universal value.  Plus, many of my dear friends, like Shanon Shea Miller, have worked on this project for several years, and many other friends, like Andrew Potts, were on hand in Bonn, Germany, for the inscription.

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Now I guess the rest of the world has to remember the Alamo too…

The five Franciscan missions that include the Alamo were inscribed yesterday and they represent not only a very interesting period in world history, they also are an important chapter in the history of heritage conservation (historic preservation) in America.  After the fledgling preservationists of San Antonio were formed to fight a plan to pave the river downtown and insert a new street grid – hence creating the famous Riverwalk – they next turned their attention to saving the four missions that run in a line from the Alamo south.   The San Antonio Conservation Society remains one of the most important heritage groups in the country.

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Mission San Jose, built 1768

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And its famous rose window….

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Mission Espada

Five years ago I made a point of visiting each of the missions (and blogged about it) and was struck by the consistency of their conservation, style, and rich interpretation, which is key.  The California missions – mostly founded by another Franciscan friar, Junipero Serra – form a much longer chain along El Camino Real but their history is more diverse, and you certainly can’t visit them all in a day.

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Mission Concepcion

While the history of the Alamo has always focused more on its role as a bastion for Anglo Texan settlers against the Mexican Army in 1836, the other missions present the rich – and complicated – history of how these missions were founded to convert and economically exploit native populations.  They were not churches as much as Indian towns centered on churches that functioned like haciendas or plantations.

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Interpretive panels at Mission Concepcion

It is not a simple or moralizing history, and we might say the same for their initial preservation 90 years ago, when heritage sites tended toward the saccharine and idealized in their stories.

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Mission San Juan Capistrano

Several San Antonio dignitaries were on hand in Bonn to celebrate the inscription, including Mayor Ivy Collins.  They feel the inscription will bring as much as $100 million in new tourism and development investment to the city and area.  Certainly these are fascinating sites, both visually and historically, and they make a trip to this excellent city more valuable.

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Foundations of church at Mission Espada

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Church interior, Mission Espada

One of the interesting facts about the inscription is that many of the missions are still active churches, or have been reactivated, and thus present over 250 years of human use.  At several of them you can see remnants of the other buildings that made up these towns/plantations, and there has been an active and effective archaeological investigation at the sites for a long time,  They predate the California missions by a few years, and their ongoing conservation and interpretation (four are part of a National Historic Park created over 30 years ago) has been of high quality.

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Arch and ornamental entrance, Mission San Jose

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Stone entrance detail, Mission Concepcion

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Gate at Mission Espada

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Courtyard area with stove, Mission San Jose

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Mission Concepcion

So Remember not only the Alamo, but the five San Antonio missions that together describe centuries of history, settlement, belief and community in a unique North American cultural place!

The Transylvanian Heritage Landscape

May 31, 2015

It was just as they said it would be.  Like walking into a fairy tale.  Quaint villages lined with brightly painted stucco houses with rust-colored tile roofs, fortified churches and watchtowers, an architecture at once Classic and Romantic.  Furrowed fields in a patchwork, horse-drawn carts, forests brimming with wolves and bears and a sense that not only have we left behind the 20th and 21st centuries but even the late 18th is seeming a bit too hectic for this cultural landscape.

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Viscri

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Saschiz

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This is Transylvania, one of the rarest cultural landscapes in the world, where villages settled by “Saxons” (actually from Luxembourg, Westphalia and Mosel valley) from the 12th century have been preserved in the heart of Romania.  This became a project of Global Heritage Fund in late 2012 and in my final week as a GHF staffer I had the opportunity to enjoy this place and see how – like Guizhou – it is an opportunity to preserve not simply buildings, but a unique cultural landscape increasingly rare in our radically urbanized world.  This pastoral ideal is shared by civilizations East and West, North and South – to have a connection to the land, to dig one’s hands into the rich loam of a cultural inheritance, to measure the days by the evening greetings, the rising moon, cicada flutters, cock’s cries and the swirling racing of the sheperd’s dog.

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Copsa Mare

How do you save this?  The first Global Heritage Fund project was to help create a kiln, needed to make the traditional tiles that are increasingly thereatened by industrial tiles that lack their richness and depth.  We saw the kiln in action – or rather, the tile making and drying, for the kiln will fire some 14000 tiles in a week.  This is near the village of Apos.

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The drying shed, with reclaimed roof tiles.

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Mixing the clay with a one-horsepower engine.

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Making the tiles

There are nearly 170 Transylvanian Saxon towns, each centered on a fortified church and featuring a settlement pattern dating from the Mosel valley in the 12th century.  Rows of houses with gates into a courtyard that features auxiliary buildings and is backed by a large barn that is contiguous with neighboring barns.  Behind are individual fields.  The churches, originally Catholic, all became Evangelical Lutheran during the reformation, despite being surrounded by Catholic Hungarians, Greek Catholic and Orthodox Romanians and Roma.  The Saxons came at the invitation of the Hungarian king, who wanted to fortify this rich land (once Roman Dacia) against invading Tatars and Turks, hence the fortified churches,

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Fortress church at Viscri (Deutschen Weisskirche)

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Fortified church in Archita

The Saxons began to leave after World War II, and with the fall of the Iron Curtain in 1989, the rump German population of about 400,000 nearly all left for Germany.  Only about 35,000 remain, so part of the challenge is to save a landscape that has been inherited by Romanian and Roma populations.  Fortunately, there is hope, because this landscape was historically diverse and there is interest in keeping the houses, the churches, and small farm fields – more about those later.

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Typical facade, Daia

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Auxiliary buildings left and barn behind, Daia

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Fields behind barns, Daia

The Saxons were a blessing for historians because they put dates on EVERYTHING!  Beams in the houses, sheepskin coats,, treasure chests, you name it, they dated it.

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Ceiling beam in a Daia house 1822

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Artifacts in Eugen Vaida’s ethnography museum, Altina

Last year I worked with GHF Chair Dan Thorne to focus our scattered efforts in Transylvania on one village, where we could have a measurable impact and create a model that would ideally be imitated by others.  The village is Daia – once Denndorf – and the results are encouraging.  We focused first on emergency repair and stabilization, and also on restoring facades.  Our next steps will tackle more of the cultural landscape, but first a few views of the work so far in this village of about 280 houses and more than 600 milk cows.

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Facade restored in Daia, 2015.

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This restoration included reclaiming the original inscription in German in the center of the facade.

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daia blue sign restor

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Another restored facade, Daia

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A roof repair we funded. 

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And another successful project.

The work is led by Eugen Vaida, an architect and tireless advocate, who together with his wife and fellow architect Vera, has been saving houses throughout the Carpathian village of Transylvania under the mantle of his non-profit Monumentum.  He also works with William Blacker, famed author of Along the Enchanted Way who has worked to save these village landscapes for decades along with Prince Charles of England.  ARTTA – The Anglo-Romanian Trust for Traditional Architecture, is another key partner.  (If you have been paying attention to this blog you know it is ALL about the partnerships!!)

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Eugen Vaida at his home in Altina, where he maintains a museum of Transylvanian ethnicity

The next stage is to work on the cultural landscape.  Daia has a surfiet of cows, and Prince Charles did donate a milk storage container, but what if we upped the value of the milk by turning it into artisanal cheese?  We met with organic farmers Willy and Lavinia Shuster in the village of Mosna, and Lavinia has had success making cheese.

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Willy and cheese.

Another idea is to build a community kitchen where locals could make preserves and other products that add value to existing crops and what amounts to an agricultural subsistence economy.  We met with ADEPT, founded in 2002 and headquartered in Saschiz.  Their story is fascinating because it reminded me of how conservation organizations are now approaching the challenge of biodiversity.

ADEPT HQ

ADEPT HQ

ADEPT helps local farmers in a whole variety of ways, from a community kitchen where they can make jams and preserves, inexpensive fruit dryers, assistance in production, marketing and branding their products so that small-scale farms can survive.  But here is the kicker – ADEPT was not founded to save small farms.  It was founded to protect biodiversity – it is a conservation organization.  But, as I have written before, conservation organizations are rapidly abandoning the unworkable wilderness model for the more effective and sustainable indigenous managed landscape model.

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Cartesian dualism – what a joke!

It turns out that when 5000 families farm 85000 hectares of rolling landscape without fences and with a diversity of small agricultural plots – you get MORE species diversity than a wilderness area.  Yes, you heard right.  You get more species of wildflowers, of birds, of small mammals, of butterflies, of everything if you have a patchwork of agricultural uses.  It makes sense if you think about it.

lady in garden

ADEPT is already working with Daia on getting their milk to market.  Ideally we would love to get a community kitchen set up there, perhaps in this old kindergarten building with great windows?

daia school bldg

daia school window

Speaking of windows….

We have circulated a list of Do’s and Don’ts for Carpathian Village preservation and rehabilitation.  I saw several of these signs in many of the towns and it seems they are having a positive effect.

GHF dos and donts sign

copsa mare dos and donts

So there was a lot of hand-wringing about an incident last year where Eugen challenged a woman who had put in plastic replacement windows in her Daia house.  Heritage conservation gets a bad name by telling people they can’t do stuff, right?

daia replace windows

Except guess what.  You live with one of these plastic windows for a few months and pretty soon you are going to be longing for your original windows – which were 1.  repairable, 2.  double-glazed with a much more effective insulation gap between the panes, 3.  beautifully designed, and 4. fit the frame better, hence probably allowed LESS air infiltration.  SO there we are walking along and this lady comes out to volunteer that she is going to put the old windows BACK because they are better.

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You gotta think about the future – plastic windows only last half a generation at best!

This little vignette actually describes the key aspect of 21st century cultural heritage conservation – you need to get in early, before the non-sustainable industries show up, and you need to make the people a part of the process from the very beginning.  I have blogged about the community-based approach to heritage conservation explicit in the Burra Charter many times before (see here for a recent example) but this isn’t rhetoric.  I’ve seen it in Yunnan, in Guizhou, in the Ukrainian Carpathians and now in the Romanian Carpathians.  And I’ve seen it on the South Side of Chicago.

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Daia, not the South Side of Chicago

Many of these villages, like Daia, have basically a subsistence economy based on agriculture, supplemented by some residents who travel to nearby countries part of the year for seasonal work in construction and the like.  Not dissimilar to the “empty middle” households of Guizhou where working-age adults are often in the coastal cities, leaving the elderly and children behind in the traditional village.  This is why we are working with ADEPT in Transylvania and You Cheng in Guizhou – to find new markets and production mechanisms that will make this cultural landscape economically sustainable.

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Outside the fortified church in Daia

Our last day we did a horse-drawn carriage ride and hike through the woods above the village of Archita, witnessing bear claw scratches on trees and bumping through fields and rolling forage until the neatest little fairy tale town you can imagine appeared, centered on a steeple, nestled in rustling green folds.

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And now a few more views from the Carpathian Villages of Transylvania, a journey outside Time.

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Marvelous architectural detail in Altina

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View in to the fortified church in Daia

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I love this Daia facade – understated Classicism in a mantle of gemütlich Heimatstil

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Stone barn, Daia

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House and gate, Viscri

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Town square and church in Biertan

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Copsa Mare

high street house

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Daia

Wisdom from the Past

April 17, 2015

We had a great panel discussion at the Legion of Honor last night and one moment that stood out to me was when I asked the four achaeologists to each describe a particular conservation challenge at their sites.  Dr. John Rick of Stanford, who works at Chavín de Huántar in Peru, talked about the challenge of water on the site.  Water is indeed one of the greatest challenges to preservation – the Chicago photographer/preservationist Richard Nickel famously said that old buildings have only two enemies:  water and stupid men.

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The problem here was not water.

But back to Dr. Rick and the water at Chavín.  What was his solution to water pooling up and eroding walls and artifacts?  Simple, find out that the ancients did millenia ago, because water (like stupid men) is not a new problem.  The builders and inhabitants of Chavin had in fact developed a sophisticated drainage system.  Modern conservators and excavators had blocked what they thought were “ventilation shafts” but were in fact regulating standpipes for the drainage system (like those ones behind the shower when you tear out the tile.)

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Chavín.

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lead pipes, Illinois c. 1874.

Of course the ancients had to deal with water, and if you look back a few blog posts, you will find me waxing on and on about water at Machu Picchu, at Angkor, and so forth.  You don’t get to the point of building great masonry monuments unless you have a society to back that up, and that society needs a water system.

I also saw an article this week about Lima, Peru, where I have traveled.  Here is a city of 8 million with like three little creeks and no rain.  How do you get water?  We can do clever things like fog harvesting and toilet-to-tap-purification and desalination.  What is the latest water technology to come out of Lima?  The Wari one.

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Water, water everywhere, and not a drop to drink….

It seems the Wari – who were the really important civilization in Peru long before the modish Inca – had a system of amunas, ancient stone canals which channeled water from the Andes into natural reservoirs and springs that could help the Wari survive dry times.  1500 years ago.

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here’s one at Pachacamac in Lima, oldest ceremonial site on coast.

Two lessons here:  1.  Don’t assume your modern technology is the only or even the best way to attack a problem – you are probably not the first one to encounter the problem.  2.  We conserve heritage for many reasons – history, education, jobs, identity – but also to learn about previous technologies that have been lost.  And there have been a few.

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Concrete.  It is how we build tall and supertall buildings today.  But it was still new technology a century ago.

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Unity Temple under construction c. 1907.

Or was it?  The French discovered concrete in the late 19th century.  Only the Romans had developed it two millennia earlier.

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Collosseum, Rome.

You see, one of the best reasons to preserve things is so you don’t FORGET how to make things.  Because we have.  Did you know that chrome plating was invented at Columbia in the 1920s (and perfected in Germany in 1937 and USA in 1950)?  It followed on other types of plating, like nickel, which had been developed throughout the 19th century.  Truly a modern wonder.  Except the Chinese did it 2200 years ago.

chrome pltg

What are we trying to preserve?  I love the debates about tangible and intangible heritage, about whether we preserve the artifact or the way of making it.  The Japanese Shinto temple is destroyed and rebuilt every two decades, but it is done so with original tools and technologies – that is what is being preserved.  When we stick epoxy and steel into Mount Vernon, we are preserving the artifact but not the technology.  There is much to be learned from an artifact that looks as it did, but there is also much to be learned from how that artifact was made.

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Peru.  I guess the drywall guys are late.

Have you seen those videos where some guys figures out how to block and tackle a Stonehenge-size menhir into place using pulleys and wood and a hole in the ground?  That is reverse engineering, which is a kindly antidote to wacky ideas about ancient astronauts.  The people of the past were not smarter than you, nor were they stupider.  They did amazing things with what they had at hand.

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And like us, they sometimes forgot.

Destruction of Heritage

March 7, 2015

When cultural heritage is targeted for destruction, everyone asks us what can be done?   Can’t we swoop in and save these priceless millennia-old artifacts?  I get asked this question a lot.

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I remember wishing someone would invade Afghanistan in February 2001 before the Taliban destroyed the Bamiyan Buddhas.  At the time it struck me that a murderous regime needs to keep its disaffected and indoctrinated youth busy smashing things or they will turn on their own.

KF killkidstree

Culture becomes a convenient rage outlet for murderous thugs, and one which has a similarly terrorizing effect on the population.  When I have been interviewed regarding destruction in Syria over the last two years I end up resorting to the same expressions of frustration and platitudes about the value of culture.  What can we do?

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The first thing to remember is that there are real-life Monuments Men and Women who have been working to save these things inside war-torn regions.  These people exhibit tremendous courage trying to hide what they can and document what they can.  Second, Global Heritage Fund is working with other international organizations as well as technology experts to tackle this issue.  In a world where everyone has a cell phone and images can go worldwide in minutes, we have more tools than we used to.  Now we need to be creative about using them for documentation and mitigation.

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In the last week we have seen ISIS/ISIL inflict its suicidal nihilism on Nimrud, Nineveh and artifacts in the Mosul Museum.  This  follows similar acts they have undertaken in the territories they have taken over in Syria and Iraq.  They actively promote and distribute this hate as mandated by their crypto-religious ideology, although how it plays out reveals more mundane and material needs.  It is yet another example of how very important heritage is to humanity and how those who would burn books or destroy cultural artifacts are identical to those who would murder and undertake genocide.

ISIS_burns_rare_old_books_at_Mosul_Museum_Library

Terrorism is a state of mind and how convenient for reptilian ideologues that the mutilation and destruction of cultural artifacts can have a similar effect on a population as the mutilation and destruction of people.  My colleague Bob Stanton was quoted on Australian radio last Friday and appropriately noted how these actions erase deep layers of history and identity.  On purpose.  Rootless people are easier prey for demagogues.

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These actions are also evidence of the economic underpinnings of this pseudo-state, which are much more important than the ideological stage dressing.  Stage One:  They loot and traffic antiquities to fund themselves.  This happened for two years.  What is happening now is different and the videos they have been distributing make this plainly clear:  Everything they have been destroying in Nimrud and Nineveh and Mosul is basically too BIG to sell on the black market.  They are less movable and thus less convertible to cash.

That means we are in Stage Two:  Immobile artifacts are commodified as part of ISISISIL viral marketing.  They become assets in their strategy to appeal to the reptilian and anti-establishment impulses common to young men especially, which is why they are less a local product than an international one.

Who wants the uncertainty of critical thought when you can have unyielding truth and certain death?

What can be done?  Step One is to shut down the markets, through whatever mechanisms are available.  Step Two is to somehow disrupt the marketing ISILISIS.  You may recoil in horror when you see the destruction, but those raised on Call of Duty and Grand Theft Auto see something enticing.

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Lamassu in Oriental Institute, Chicago

A corollary ripple effect in the world of cultural heritage is that the Mosul destruction – following many other such acts and simultaneously publicized with defacement of the Nineveh gate, has highlighted museums, primarily in the West, who collected artifacts from places like Iraq and Syria (and Egypt and Greece, etc.).  The Elgin Marbles notwithstanding, we are in an era when repatriation of artifacts to those places where they came from has become more common.  It was a growing phenomenon that called into question the encyclopedic museum.

OI egypt

But with the destruction in Nineveh and Mosul and Nimrud – and the recent burning of libraries in Mosul, Cairo and Timbuktu – as well as the ongoing ruin of nearly every heritage site in Syria –  many are arguing for the encyclopedic museum.  In the wake of these events, they appear as safe harbors.  You can still see pieces of ancient Iraq and Syria in London and Chicago and elsewhere.  The discussion has now shifted to what extraordinary methods to help evacuate heritage when danger approaches.  Repatriation just got further away.

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Sometimes evacuation is the solution. Global Heritage Fund  was involved with the Prince Claus Fund in the effort to save ancient manuscripts in Timbuktu when they were threatened in 2012 by Islamist militants.  The sad fact of that situation and so many others is that the most frequent targets of supposedly “Islamic” militants are in fact elements of Islamic heritage.

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British Museum, London

Beyond providing safe harbor, museums can help police and heritage professionals as they attempt to document sites, identify artifacts and disrupt the trade.  There are also new technological tools that could conceivably be deployed.  Archaeology has been revolutionized over the last decade with LIDAR, GPR, GIS, drones and a variety of other imaging and documentation tools.  Big Data can help as we look to antiquities markets and try to enforce the existing heritage conventions.

To deal with Stage Two, the thing that needs disruption is the marketing collateral of ISIS/ISIL.  For every historian who weeps when they see hooligans sledgehammering treasures, there are two Eastenders who think it is cool and want to do it too.  Someone needs to disrupt this market: right now they are feeding the beast.

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Assyrian at the Met

Focusing on ideology or even culture in this case crafts a misleading analysis.  These thugs are not the Other, and the current marketing campaign is aimed less at the so-called “Arab Street” than the banlieue.   This is not a regional enemy but an international magnet for alienation and hatred.

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Tripoli

Heritage is a nonrenewable resource.  What is lost is lost forever.  We will only stop the destruction when we see past the ideological pretensions to how these actions function to underpin this violent entity.

Resiliency and Climate Change

February 16, 2015

Last week in Colorado I showed two slides of the Farnsworth House, which I have been blogging about for a dozen years.  The first image came in the section of my talk about the Threats to our Heritage, such as Climate Change.  I had also showed images of it earlier in the week, when I participated in a Climate Change and Cultural Heritage conference in Pocantico, New York, with a whole variety of players, from colleagues at the National Trust for Historic Preservation, National Park Service, Society for American Archaeology, World Monuments Fund, English Heritage and many other, collected together by the Union of Concerned Scientists.  So here is the first slide, which is Farnsworth House experiencing a “100-year” flood for the first of three times in the last eight years.

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I then showed another slide of the Farnsworth House later in the keynote with the caption “The Process of Preservation is Adaptive and Resilient” because I was talking about the only universal in cultural heritage conservation – the process – and I was deliberately framing the discussion in the necessary terms, which you will note say nothing about mitigation.

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This is how we began our discussion a year ago with the Trustees of the National Trust, and while I was a facilitator of that discussion, I must credit Anthony Veerkamp for doing the research.  I then moderated a panel at the National Preservation Conference in Savannah on Climate Change, that included the Union of Concerned Scientists and the National Park Service.  The Park Service is dealing with this issue, as is the DOD and everyone else, because the sea levels will rise 3 to 6 feet by the end of the century.

Shark fin cove framed

John Englander, who began the discussion in Savannah, works with communities around the country to plan for the sea level rise, and even frames the discussion as an opportunity to plan for something you know will occur as opposed to being caught off-guard.  The discussion is not about mitigation – that’s what reanimates the troglodytes – it is about adaptation and resiliency.  How do we adapt historic resources to new climatic realities?  How do we make our historic buildings and sites more resilient in the face of rising sea levels and increased frequency of extreme weather events?

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and where you gonna plant grapes when Napa gets too hot?  (actually that is the trick – look where the big producers are buying land in Monterey County and you can see where your wine will come from in 2040)

Skipping over the mitigation question is not an evasion of responsibility, but the fact remains you could shut down every car and building in the world tomorrow and the sea level will still rise 3 to 6 feet by 2100.  And it is not an even situation, because how water flows and rises and falls is affected by all kinds of things.  So Manhattan is sitting on schist and actually in a pretty good situation, but MIami is sitting on some of the most porous limestone known, so even a braintrust of Dutch polderbuilders can’t make a levee that will save that.

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hey at least they kinda look like boats

If you know about that stuff you realize that some of our own NorCal polders like Foster City are NOT sitting pretty, but interestingly the first place in Cali to get wet turns out to be Sacramento, 80 miles inland.  Geology ain’t simple, and neither are watersheds – just look at the Chicago River – has run west, east, and west again all since the Pyramids were built, and only that last shift was anthro-engineered.

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Now, if you have read my posts about the Farnsworth House, you will recall that I first approached it as we will no doubt need to approach many cultural heritage resources:  let them become the future of underwater archaeology.  Make decisions based on significance and community needs, and perform the unpleasant but necessary triage that will save some things with precision while allowing others to collapse into that state of romantic ruin that so inspired John Ruskin.

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It was a dissolute place anyway

Now, I changed my mind about the Farnsworth House because it is an amazing work of art and architecture and its value needs to be kept above water – although also in a floodplain, since its design makes no sense outside of a floodplain.  But we can’t elevate every landmark in the way of the water and we can’t move every lighthouse.  Some of it will be lost.  But, as Englander notes, we have the opportunity to plan for it over the coming decades – so there is that.  Some things, like my favorite National Historic Landmark from the 1880s – will be moved.

LUCY

LUCY!

Others will be lost, partially or completely.  But the majority of the activity we will undertake in the coming decades will not be about radical saves or radical losses of cultural heritage.  It will be about how we make our heritage more resilient.  Just as this Beaux Arts gem was retrofitted to withstand seismic events, so too we will work to make our historic buildings more adaptable and resilient in the face of weather events and rising sea levels.

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As always, 19th century buildings will have the upper hand, since they were built in a time when they were viewed as moveable assets and 19th century North Americans had no problem shifting buildings around.  The oldest house I ever owned was built in 1872-73 but MOVED in 1878.  It’s still there, about 500 feet above sea level outside of Chicago.

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There are whole cultures threatened by rising sea levels, and not just the various Polynesian islands soon to be inundated.  At our conference we had Queen Quet, chieftess of the Gulla Geechee nation on the Sea Islands off of Georgia and Florida.  A physical artifact can be made resilient and even adaptable, but how do living cultures respond when they are put in new environments?  As is our efforts to save cultural landscapes across the world (Global Heritage Fund), the challenge of preserving intangible heritage may be even greater than finding new techniques and new uses for buildings, sites and structures.