Editorial: Interpretation, Experience, and the Past | Frank Matero

Editorial: Interpretation, Experience, and the Past | Frank Matero

Any consideration of the display and interpretation of heritage sites demands reflection on three critical questions:

• How should we experience a place, especially one that is fragmented, accreted, and possibly illegible?
• How does intervention affect what we see, what we feel, and what we know?
• How can display promote effective and active dialog about the past across space and time?

All conservation is a critical act that results in the conscious production of “heritage.” As an activity of mediation between the past and the present, conservation is ultimately responsible for what the viewer sees, experiences, and can know about the past and its relationship to the present. Much contemporary practice is concerned with finding an acceptable balance between protecting the many values that characterize places of historical and cultural significance, not the least of which involves the complexities of change to the tangible and intangible aspects that uniquely define all heritage. Such questions have been fundamental to classical conservation theory and practice concerned with interventions in the life of a building or place regardless of age. The tension inherent in this dialectic defines the very nature of conservation as the push and pull between the emotional and humanistic on the one hand, and the rational and scientific on the other.


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Image: Franklin Court, Independence National Historical Park, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 1976. Venturi Scott Brown, architects. (Frank Matero)