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Conserving local heritage through heritage management

Heritage management is a science. It is a discipline which is directed explicitly at addressing the dynamics of the administration of heritage assets. Standard 'good practice' in heritage management calls for a methodology which assists to encapsulate the tangible and intangible elements to an asset and contributes towards its future through sustainable conservation benchmarks.

Through the use of national and international charters, a universal standard can be achieved making it possible to conserve a specific location safely into the future. As a result of this, specific charters can assist us also to gain a greater understanding of the issues, risks and socio-economic dynamics which directly affect many buildings and sites.

The use of some conservation charters within heritage management may also assist to expose the physical evidence and memories of the previous occupants to a building or site. These elements are paramount when searching for primary documentation and should be carefully analysed, researched and evaluated.

The information gained through the use of specific charters and local policies can create and facilitate direct links to the past. Through this, further documentation can be gained, which will ultimately assist to enrich our understanding and experience of a building, the spaces within it and its inhabitants.

One such international charter, which was developed in Australia and is currently widely used both nationally and internationally to assist achieve a high standard of heritage management, is the Burra Charter.

Adopted by Australia ICOMOS in 1979 at Burra, South Australia, the Charter provides guidance for the conservation and management of places of cultural significance, and is based on the knowledge and experience of Australia ICOMOS members.

Based upon the International Charter for the Conservation and Restoration of Monuments and Sites (Venice 1964), and the Resolutions of the 5th General Assembly of the International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS) (Moscow 1978), the Burra Charter sets a standard of practice for those who provide advice, make decisions about, or undertake works to places of cultural significance, including owners, managers and custodians.

Revisions were adopted on February 23, 1981, April 23, 1988, and November 26, 1999, and the Illustrated Burra Charter: Good practices for heritage places, Australia ICOMOS Inc, Burwood 2004. 1 The philosophy behind the creation of the Burra Charter was and still is: "to do as much as necessary to care for the place and to make it useable, but otherwise change it as little as possible so that its cultural significance is retained" (Burra Charter)2.

The development of the charter has been written at a local level making it a very "user friendly" document to understand as well as use. The Burra Charter, has set a standard within the field of heritage management in which professionals and non-professional organisations can easily set obtainable guidelines which will contribute towards the success of operating a historic building or site.

Without these international charters, national policies and guidelines, management and action plans as well as the administration of cultural sites and intangible heritage would be in a very unstable and volatile state.

To further explore and analyse this topic and other heritage management issues and concerns, Heritage Enterprise is starting a course on January 9 through MCAST Naxxar Campus. The aim of this evening course, costing Lm35, is to familiarise students with heritage management and 'best practice'. Areas of discussion will include heritage conservation, policy development within heritage (both national and international), and heritage economics.

Through this course, students will be offered a challenging programme of study which enhances understanding of the links between the socio-economic and policy context of heritage, tourism, heritage conservation and the management of heritage and museum organisations.

The courses will also encourage the development of specialist management skills and competencies which are recognised by employers in the arts and heritage sector.

The courses should foster an awareness of the market, business and policy environments in which heritage and museum managers operate, and the related strategic implications for museum and heritage organisations.

Lastly it is thought to encourage students to critically reflect on their own experiences; enabling them to undertake a museum or heritage management research project as part of their final assignment.

Classes will explore the many diverse facets and multi disciplinary skills which are required when working within the field of heritage. Fieldwork projects will be given as part of the overall coursework in an attempt to enable students to fully understand the information which will be presented to them in these classes. The course will be held over 48 hours. Classes will be held every Monday evening between 6.30 and 8.30 for two hours over a total of 24 weeks.

Heritage Enterprise is a private organisation which provides consultancy and professional assistance in the field of building conservation, heritage management, site management and museology.

In addition to this, Heritage Enterprise provides training in heritage management and museology using international charters and conventions.

If you're interested in attending this course or for more information, e-mail your contact details to Heritage Enterprise at heritage_enterprise@onvol.net or call 2180-9166.

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