FROM INTERNATIONAL TO COSMOPOLITAN: Taking the Venice Charter Beyond the ‘‘State-Party’’ Politics of Experts | CHRISTOPHER KOZIOL
It stands as a truism that the present condition of heritage preservation is more complicated than it was in the past. That is the case today, as it was at least as early as the mid-nineteenth century. When industrialism was changing the landscapes of towns and cities, assuring the visibility of the past required choosing an idealized stylistic unity (scrape), or more straight-forwardly, a stabilized structure and tidied-up grounds (anti-scrape). By the early twentieth century, rising nationalist sentiment across Europe exerted pressure to use the heritage environment to define the national character. (At this point, earlier eras’ polite discussions of restoration and preservation—with national authorities as the only decision-makers—no doubt seemed like a simpler approach.) The conventions, charters, and declarations of professionals, administrators, technicians, and government bureaucrats from a multitude of countries required new levels of coordination and discussion. Memories, intangibility, and nonlinear time became subjects of debate, with bumbling bureaucracies involved in decisions about the tangible and the intangible. In professional discussions with this depth of professional complexity, bureaucrats were practically the Rock of Peter (Western and Christian allusion intended) compared to multi-cultural relativism.
Written histories of cultural heritage management, historic preservation, or architectural conservation often either chronicle the achievements of ‘‘the predecessors’’ or, more ambitiously, attempt to bring some ordered periodization to the flow. We are fortunate that this documentation is maturing and progressing with the contributions of Jukka Jokilehto, Françoise Choay, John Stubbs, and others.1 It is easier today for heritage professionals to learn what our geographic neighbors and temporal predecessors are doing and have done. However, the specialized nature of the work of architectural heritage preservation has kept it largely out of the mainstream of wider discussions of social transformation and epochal succession. While this is understandable from the vantage of those engaged at higher levels of abstraction, it is an unfortunate and unnecessary oversight of those more directly engaged in conservation. In this article, I take up the relationship of heritage preservation to a specific debate that flourished throughout much of the late twentieth century and continues into the twenty-first. Many in the social sciences have attempted to account for the ways in which global modernization has changed the circumstances of the conditions of modernity itself. Some have proposed that new circumstances, a second modernity, are distinctly different from those of an earlier period. More specifically, I attempt to establish the historical circumstances of the adoption of the Venice Charter for the Conservation and Restoration of Monuments and Sites (Venice Charter) and its continuing aftermath as related to, and part of, the same conditions that have affected other segments of society.
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