dirk hr spennemann

Floating CSS Menu Css3Menu.com

Statement of
Historic Preservation/Cultural Heritage Management
Commitment and Approach

Our Past is the Foundation for our Future.

In a nutshell, Historic Preservation/Cultural Heritage Management is the ethically sound stewardship of our shared past(s) carried out by the present generation on behalf of and for the benefit of our children's children.

Despite natural resource managers' claims to the contrary there is no true wilderness left in all of Australia, or the entire continental USA (sections of Alaska and Antarctica excepted). Rather, Australia, as well as the USA, is one large and multifaceted cultural landscape abundant with cultural heritage places and properties. By making choices which places and properties to preserve and actively manage, and which to let fall in decay or surrender to the bulldozer and wrecking ball, we, the people, create a new future out of the material remains of the past. Which future we create is dependent on the interests of the stakeholders of the process and which role (and weight) the people driving the process give to the community at large, as opposed to the vocal few or the Historic Preservation/Cultural Heritage Management specialist acting as advisers.

In the final analysis Historic Preservation/Cultural Heritage Management is merely a facet of social management. As Historic Preservation/Cultural Heritage Management specialists we actively model the past to suit and service the perceived present and future needs of society. We do so through legal protection, through active intervention in planning processes, through physical intervention in decay processes and, conversely, through inaction and neglect of places and properties deemed less or wholly insignificant. Not only do we manage and, ultimately enshrine for the future a present-day interpretation of the past, but in cases of value-conflicts we also engage in social engineering. By favouring one group over the other, we support the aspirations of one segment of society, while at the same time undermine those of another.

Time and time again, the past projects its political power into the present. People's cultural, and through their culture, their personal identities and constructions of self are tied up with and focussed on heritage places of significance. Through impairment or destruction of these places we not only remove physical evidence, but we also cut at the heart of those sections of society for whom these places were significant. While some of this destruction is intentional, as in the case of actions during war or as part of terror campaigns, much is committed unwittingly by unthinking managers.

Historic Preservation/Cultural Heritage Management is based on an assessment of values, and no such assessment can ever be objective. Conscious and subsconcious influences of personal ideologies and value systems will intrude. Selfcritical, reflective practice is one way for Historic Preservation/Cultural Heritage Management specialists of reducing, but never truly eliminating, this subjective bias.

It is essential that students of Historic Preservation/Cultural Heritage Management receive a firm and conceptually sound grounding and education in the technical, legal/administrative and economic aspects of Historic Preservation. But it is also imperative that they are also fully aware that Historic Preservation/Cultural Heritage Management is eminently political. This is even more so in an age where heritage tourism is in the ascendancy and interpretation of the past has become an economic force to be reckoned with.

As Historic Preservation/Cultural Heritage Management specialists we are both bound by the Codes of Practice set out by ICOMOS and are called upon to provide intellectual leadership in the future development of these and other standards. University teaching programs in Historic Preservation/Cultural Heritage Management can and will provide leadership through influencing current practice and through equipping the Historic Preservation/Cultural Heritage Management decision makers of tomorrow with the right intellectual tools to fulfil these dual obligations.

As Historic Preservation/Cultural Heritage Management specialists we must be cognisant of the public power and authority that we hold by virtue of being 'specialists' and 'experts.' It is how we bring this expert status to bear in an ethical fashion that differentiates good Historic Preservation/Cultural Heritage Management specialists from the mediocre. We must be cognisant that there is a very fine line between community education in Historic Preservation/Cultural Heritage Management and community manipulation by virtue of our specialists' authority status, a fine line between public education and propaganda.

As educators in the Historic Preservation/Cultural Heritage Management field we have a special responsibility to teach ethically sound practice. I intend to lead and teach by example.


This document forms part of the hypertext curriculum vitaeof Dr. Dirk H.R. Spennemann (Charles Sturt University, Albury, Australia). If you arrived at this page through a search engine you may wish to call up http://csusap.csu.edu.au/~dspennem which will link you to the top of the frame-based CV.