Kwanda, Timoticin (2009) Western conservation theoryand the Asian Context: The Different Roots of Conservation. In: International Conference on Heritage in Asia: Converging Forces and Conflicting Values, 8-10 January 2009, the Asia Research Institute, National University of Singapore.
In the mid twentieth century in the Western world, classical conservation theories emerged that seek to preserve and recover the integrity and authenticity of an object. In conservation practice throughout Europe and the international sphere, this materialistic notion of conservation is found in various international charters, such as the Athens Charter, and the Venice Charter. This notion of Western conservation has been disseminated throughout the world by UNESCO and its advisory body, ICOMOS. For decades, this tangible notion of conservation have been imposed in conservation practice in Asian countries, such as the first wave of conservation happened after the World War II when the new emerging nations were celebrating their nationalism through the state’s construction of colonial heritage. In the 1990s, as part of the globalised economic development, the second wave of tangible notion of conservation took place through the state’s construction of cultural heritage as resources for tourism industry. After the 1990s, the notion of cultural significance, meaning or value has shifted the focus of conservation from the object to the subject: the people that associated with a place. In similar focus on the subject, in 1994, Nara Document on Authenticity was adopted to challenge the Western physical notion of heritage with the intangible notion of heritage. In response to this notion, in recent years a number of Asian countries have their own charters to underpin approaches in conserving of cultural heritage. Unfortunately, this Charters still strongly hold the doctrine of tangible notion as taught in the Venice Charter. In contemporary conservation practice in Asia, the third wave of conservation in Asia was the challenge of the experts against the domination of the state on the production of cultural heritage that has also contributed to this shift from the object to the subject. This notion was followed in the 2000s by conservation practice throughout Asia that focus on the inclusive approach and intangible heritage as recorded in the 2000-2004 UNESCO-Asia Pacific Heritage Award. This paper tries to argue that in the parallel course of conservation history the conservation theory in Asia should be rewritten rooted in the different and long traditions of Asia society that emphasize the spiritual meanings of the people reflecting through the object and the tradition of fabric renewal of the perishable structure as opposed to the notion of material authenticity that keep the principle of minimum intervention and reversibility as known today in conservation theory and practices.
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