Managing heritage concerns

Heritage is of increasing significance to each society. Why this is so is not entirely clear but probably it has to do with the increasing speed of modernization and the scale of change in society. In such circumstances, evidence of past societies can provide a sense of belonging and security to modern societies and be an anchor in a rapidly changing world. In many societies, too, heritage can be an important definer of identity. Understanding the past can also be of great help for managing the problems of the present and the future.


The range of what is regarded as heritage has broadened significantly over the last halfcentury. Heritage properties tended to be individual monuments and buildings such as places of worship or fortifications and were often regarded as standalone, with no particular relationship to their surrounding landscape. Today, there is general recognition that the whole environment has been affected by its interaction with humanity and is therefore capable of being recognized as heritage. It becomes even more necessary to make judgements about what has significance and what does not.

Inevitably, this expansion of the concept of heritage has meant in turn an enormous expansion in the range of types of structures and places treated as heritage. The World Heritage Convention recognizes that heritage can be defined as ‘monuments, groups of buildings and sites’. In practice, a broad set of typologies has developed that includes: urban centres, archaeological sites, industrial heritage, cultural landscapes and heritage routes. This greatly increases the range of places and landscapes that has to be managed by heritage managers and thus widens the range of skills required. It also greatly increases the type and number of threats that can have an adverse impact on heritage places. Apart from direct threats to the fabric or components of the heritage place itself, it is much more common for places to be threatened by adverse developments in their surroundings. In these circumstances, decisions taken for wider economic or social benefits must be compatible with the well-being of the heritage place.