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Burra Charter Process chart

Definition

"Cultural significance means aesthetic, historic, scientific, social or spiritual value for past, present or future generations. Cultural significance is embodied in the place itself, its fabric, setting, use, associations, meanings, records, related places and related objects.

"Places may have a range of values for different individuals or groups."

"Place means site, area, land, landscape, building or other work, group of buildings or other works, and may include components, contents, spaces and views.

"Fabric means all the physical material of the place including components, fixtures, contents, and objects."

"Cultural significance is a concept which helps in estimating the value of places. The places that are likely to be significance are those which help an understanding of the past or enrich the present, and which will be of value to future generations."

Australia ICOMOS Burra Charter, 1999, Australia ICOMOS

"An idea common to all cultural resources is the concept of significance. To be significant, a cultural resource must have important historical, cultural, scientific, or technological associations and it must manifest those associations in its physical substance. Put another way, the significance of cultural resources is based on two interrelated qualities. A cultural resource consists of a number of physical, chemical, or biological features; at the same time, it consists of ideas, events, and relationships…

"The physical and social dimensions of a cultural resource are inseparably interwoven. For a resource to be significant, its meaning must be indelibly fixed in form and fabric…"

Chapter 1: Fundamental Concepts of Cultural Resource Management, C. The Nature of Cultural Resources, 1. Significance, NPS-28: Cultural Resource Management Guideline, National Park Service

"An important aim of the survey and critical-historical assessment of a heritage resource is to define its character and historical integrity, and to prepare a statement of its significance."

Jokilehto, Dr. Jukka. Management and Presentation of Cultural Heritage Sites. [Download as a document file archived at CultureLink, APRCCN (Asia-Pacific Regional Centre of the Culturelink Network).]

Standards

Australia ICOMOS Burra Charter, 1999, Australia ICOMOS

2.0 The Concept of Cultural Significance

2.1 Introduction

In the Burra Charter cultural significance means "aesthetic, historic, scientific or social value for past, present or future generations."

Cultural significance is a concept which helps in estimating the value of places. The places that are likely to be significance are those which help an understanding of the past or enrich the present, and which will be of value to future generations.

Although there are a variety of adjectives used in definitions of cultural significance in Australia, the adjectives "aesthetic", "historic", "scientific", and "social", given alphabetically in the Burra Charter, can encompass all other values.

The meaning of these terms in the context of cultural significance is discussed below. It should be noted that they are not mutually exclusive, for example, architectural style has both historic and aesthetic aspects.

2.2 Aesthetic value

Aesthetic value includes aspects of sensory perception for which criteria can and should be stated. Such criteria may include consideration of the form, scale, colour, texture and material of the fabric; the smells and sounds associated with the place and its use.

2.3 Historic value

Historic value encompasses the history of aesthetics, science and society, and therefore to a large extent underlies all of the terms set out in this section.

A place may have historic value because it has influenced, or has been influenced by, an historic figure, event, phase , or activity. It may also have historic value as the site of an important event. For any given place the significance will be greater where evidence of the association or event survives in situ, or where the settings are substantially intact, than where it has been changed or evidence does not survive. However, some events or associations may be so important that the place retains significance regardless of subsequent treatment.

2.4 Scientific value

The scientific or research value of a place will depend upon the importance of the data involved, on its rarity, quality or representativeness, and on the degree to which the place may contribute further substantial information.

2.5 Social value

Social value embraces the qualities for which place has become a focus of spiritual, political, national or other cultural sentiment to a majority or minority group.

2.6 Other approaches

The categorization into aesthetics, historic, scientific and social values is one approach to understanding the concept of cultural significance. However, more precise categories may be developed as understanding of a particular place increases.

3.0 The Establishment of Cultural Significance

3.1 Introduction

In establishing the cultural significance of a place it is necessary to assess all the information relevant to an understanding of the place and its fabric. The task includes a report compromising written material and graphic material. The contents of the report should be arranged to suit the place and the limitations on the task, but it will generally be in two sections: first, the assessment of cultural significance (see 3.2 and 3.3) and second, the statement of cultural significance (see 3.4).

3.2 Collection of information

Information relevant to the assessment of cultural significance should be collected. Such information concerns:

(a) the developmental sequence of the place and its relationship to the surviving fabric;

(b) the existence and nature of lost or obliterated fabric;

(c) the rarity and/or technical interest of all or any part of the place;

(d) the function of the place and its parts;

(e) the relationship of the place and its parts with its setting;

(f) the cultural influences which have affected the form and fabric of the place;

(g) the significance of the place to people who use or have used the place, or descendants of such people;

(h) the historical content of the place with particular references to the ways in which its fabric has been influenced by historical forces or has itself influenced the course of history;

(i) the scientific or research potential of the place;

(j) the relationship of the place to the other places, for example in respect of technology, use, locality or origin;

(k) any other factor relevant to an understanding of the place.

3.3 The assessment of cultural significance

The assessment of cultural significance follows the collection of information.

The validity of the judgements will depend upon the care with which the data is collected and the reasoning applied to it.

In assessing cultural significance the practitioner should state conclusions. Unresolved aspects should be identified.

Whatever may be considered the principal significance of a place, all other aspects of significance should be given consideration.

3.3.1 Extent of recording —

In assessing these matters a practitioner should record the place sufficiently to provide a basis for the necessary discussion of the facts. During such recording an obviously urgent problems endangering the place, such as stability and security, should be reported to the client.

3.3.2 Intervention in the fabric —

Intervention in, or removal of, fabric at this stage should be strictly within the terms of the Burra Charter.

3.3.3 Hypotheses —

Hypotheses, however expert or informed, should not be presented as established fact. Feasible or possible hypotheses should be set out, with the evidence for and against them, and the line of reasoning that has been followed. Any attempt which has been made to check a hypothesis should be recorded, so as to avoid repeating fruitless research.

3.4 Statement of cultural significance

The practitioner should prepare a succinct statement of cultural significance, supported by, or cross referenced to, sufficient graphic material to help identify the fabric of cultural significance.

It is essential that the statement be clear and pithy, expressing simply why the place is of value but not restating the physical or documentary evidence.

National Register of Historic Places, National Park Service

How to Apply the National Register Criteria for Evaluation (NR Bulletin #15). A property must be shown to be significant for one or more of the four Criteria for Evaluation.

The basis for judging a property's significance and, ultimately, its eligibility under the Criteria is historic context. The use of historic context allows a property to be properly evaluated in a nearly infinite number of capacities. The key to determining whether the characteristics or associations of a particular property are significant is to consider the property within its historic context.

National Historical Landmarks

Figure 1. National Historic Landmarks Criteria [excluding exemptions], Introduction to National Historic Landmarks, How to Prepare National Historic Landmark Nominations, NR Bulletin.

"The quality of national significance is ascribed to districts, sites, buildings, structures, and objects that possess exceptional value or quality in illustrating or interpreting the heritage of the United States in history, architecture, archeology, engineering, and culture and that possess a high degree of integrity of location, design, setting, materials, workmanship, feeling, and association, and:

Criterion 1  That are associated with events that have made a significant contribution to, and are identified with, or that outstandingly represent, the broad national patterns of United States history and from which an understanding and appreciation of those patterns may be gained; or

Criterion 2   That are associated importantly with the lives of persons nationally significant in the history of the United States; or

Criterion 3   That represent some great idea or ideal of the American people; or

Criterion 4   That embody the distinguishing characteristics or an architectural type specimen exceptionally valuable for the study of a period, style, or method of construction, or that represent a significant, distinctive, and exceptional entity whose components may lack individual distinction; or

Criterion 5   That are composed of integral parts of the environment not sufficiently significant by reason of historical association or artistic merit to warrant individual recognition but collectively compose an entity or exceptional historical or artistic significance, or outstandingly commemorate or illustrate a way of life or culture; orCriterion 6That have yielded or may be likely to yield information of major scientific importance by revealing new cultures, or by shedding light upon periods of occupation of large areas of the United States. Such sites are those which have yielded, or which may reasonably be expected to yield, data affecting theories, concepts, and ideas to a major degree."

IV. How to Evaluate and Document National Significance for Potential National Historic Landmarks, How to Prepare National Historic Landmark Nominations, NR Bulletin.

Establishing national significance requires the examination of the theme in which the property is significant to the extent necessary to document that the property represents an important aspect of the theme on a national level and is outstanding in its representation. A property should also be exceptionally important compared to similar properties within that theme. This Bulletin provides an illustrated guide to the criteria.

Appendix V: National Historic Landmarks Criteria, How to Complete the National Register Registration Form (NR Bulletin #16A)

The quality of national significance is ascribed to districts, sites, buildings, structures, and objects that possess exceptional value or quality in illustrating or interpreting the heritage of the United States in history, architecture, archeology, engineering, and culture and that possess a high degree of integrity of location, design, setting, materials, workmanship, feeling, and association, and:

  1. That are associated with events that have made a significant contribution to, and are identified with, or that outstandingly represent, the broad national patterns of United States history and from which an understanding and appreciation of those patterns may be gained; or
  2. That are associated importantly with the lives of persons nationally significant in the history of the United States; or
  3. That represent some great idea or ideal of the American people; or
  4. That embody the distinguishing characteristics of an architectural type specimen exceptionally valuable for a study of a period, style or method of construction, or that represent a significant, distinctive and exceptional entity whose components may lack individual distinction; or
  5. That are composed of integral parts of the environment not sufficiently significant by reason of historical association or artistic merit to warrant individual recognition but collectively compose an entity of exceptional historical or artistic significance, or outstandingly commemorate or illustrate a way of life or culture; or
  6. That have yielded or may be likely to yield information of major scientific importance by revealing new cultures, or by shedding light upon periods of occupation over large areas of the United States. Such sites are those which have yielded, or which may reasonably be expected to yield, data affecting theories, concepts and ideas to a major degree.

Resources

National Register Publications, National Register of Historic Places, National Park Service.

Preservation Briefs, Technical Preservation Services for Historic Buildings, Heritage Preservation Services, National Park Service.

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