Conservation and Preservation or Conservation Vs. Preservation ?
Before we start to consider how well time and human interest has conserved (….and/or
preserved…?) story of 1066, the Battle of Hastings, The Norman Conquest and the Domesday
Book and to what extent this event has left echoes in present ‘received wisdom’, cultures and
identities we had better be sure what we are talking about in respect to:
1. Heritage Conservation
2. Heritage Preservation
This would appear to presuppose that we know what ‘Heritage’ actually is, so we seem to
have a third Question: What is Heritage?
So, in your teams as established earlier:
Will one of the teams in Tony’s group work on defining Heritage, another on Conservation,
another on Preservation. Teams in Ellen’s group should follow the same pattern. Please
make sure that there is no duplication. Proceed as follows:
1. Brainstorm your OWN team definition first (WITHOUT LOOKING AT THE WEB
OR YOUR NOTES)... and write it down in English in a WORD document.
2. Check your definitions: remember that a good definition will usually answer most, if
not all the ‘question words’: what, why, who, how, when and where. Improve your
definitions where possible and write down the improved definition in the best English
you can. Be prepared to present it.
After the session in which we pool our respective DIY definitions we will then move on to
seeing how they fare (stand up) against formal / expert definitions. Do the experts themselves
even agree, I wonder???
3. Consider where online you might be likely to find a range of expert and reliable
definitions and interpretations (brainstorm this up BEFORE you attempt to search
– it is likely to be far more productive than a general search)
4. Go online, find and record such definitions (copy and paste them WITH sources
and URLs / hyperlinks to your Word document.
5. Critique such definitions in the light of your own thinking and team definition ... is
yours better or do you need to incorporate some of the experts’ thinking into your own
6. Produce your definitive definition and prepare to present and explain it to the class
I will then attempt to record the key attributes of the respective definitions from each team
with a view to developing a ‘Master’ definition which we believe encapsulates all the key
attributes in the best form of words possible. I hope to be able to show you that we can do
better than the experts if we have a mind to think for ourselves and challenge and test
Some approaches to Heritage Conservation .... Preservation
Bournemouth University’s Heritage Conservation Degree programme is:
An interdiscinplinary degree, the course covers all aspects of the historic environment
including landscape history, buildings, heritage planning and management, archaeology,
materials and environmental sciences, interpretation, presentation, communications,
marketing, project management and professional skills equipping the graduate for a wide
range of careers.
The American Institute for Conservation uses the following two definitions:
Conservation: The profession devoted to the preservation of cultural
property for the future. Conservation activities include examination,
documentation, treatment, and preventive care, supported by research and
Preservation: The protection of cultural property through activities that
minimize chemical and physical deterioration and damage and that prevent
loss of informational content. The primary goal of preservation is to
prolong the existence of cultural property.
The above and below are part of an exchange at Stanford University on discriminating
between the two terms.
Pamela Darling (1985)
Libraries are responsible for the care of materials which are physically
endangered, and library preservation encompasses everything which serves to
prolong the life of those materials and/or their informational content. I
use the term "preservation' in this broadest sense, reserving the term
"conservation" for those activities which involve physical treatment of
individual items by a "conservation technician" or professional
There are other opinions on this terminology matter. Some hold conservation
to be the broader term, with preservation restricted either to preventive
maintenance activities, or to saving information through replacement or
reformatting, as in "preservation microfilming." Friendly arguments have
been going on about this for years now, and dictionaries don't help much,
generally listing the two as synonyms.
In the museum world, where every item is unique, conservation is--quite
properly in my view- -the dominant term since physical care is virtually
the only option. Microfilming the paintings or recording the appearance of
woven baskets on an optical disc and discarding the originals would hardly
do! the museum-oriented American Institute for Conservation reserves its
most privileged membership categories for hands-on laboratory conservators.
For AIC, conservation is the broader term, and those who have come to
library work with a hands-on object-oriented background have tended to
bring that use of the term with them, so that a few libraries still have
"Conservation" offices or departments which encompass more than physical
treatment. The published literature also reflects this dual use, one recent
book actually using preservation as the broader term in the text but
defining conservation as the broader term in the glossary.
Regarding forests in Maryland, one educator, Patrice Jastrzembski took the following
Conservation of our natural resources is something we all strive to do. Unfortunately, there
has been some discrepancy over the definition of the word conservation. Often a word can
mean different things due to how it is used or based upon an individual person's beliefs.
Most of the time people agree that the meaning of the word "conserve" means to use
something wisely. Such is the case when the word is applied to the statements "conserve
water" or "conserve electricity". When we conserve water and electricity we use the products,
but we try to use them only when needed.
Trouble begins when we consider the statement, "we must conserve our forests". All of a
sudden the definition of the word "conserve" means very different things to different people.
To most people "conserving our forests" means to use forests and forest products wisely, but
to others, conserving forests means to preserve or set aside. These two interpretations of the
term "conserve our forests" are completely opposite one another.
The media tends to promote the beliefs of those who are in favor of preserving our forests.
The general public is being led to believe by most of the media that forest management for
forest products is harmful to our forests. The current trend is to let nature take its course,
because nature knows best.
Forest managers and their proponents disagree. They believe that utilizing our forests for
essential products such as wood and paper need not harm the forest. In fact they promote that
the healthiest forests are those that are thinned and cut according to recommended forest
Forest management practices allow forest trees to grow big and strong by providing adequate
sunlight and room for growth. In turn, the trees are less susceptible to damage from insects
and diseases. Additionally, the threat of devastating wildfire is reduced due to a decrease in
dead wood in the forest.
Forest management and wildlife managers agree that wildlife benefit from forest management
and the cutting of trees. This is because a well-managed forest provides ample and diverse
food and shelter for a variety of wildlife species.
Even the dictionary definition of the word "conserve" seems to promote conservation of our
forests through wise forest management instead of preservation. Webster's New Student
Dictionary defines "conserve" as: "planned management of a natural resource to prevent
exploitation, destruction, or neglect".
Many forest managers and forestland owners are frustrated that public sentiment, and not
technical knowledge and experience, has been allowed to determine the current, "politically-
correct" definition of the phrase "conserve our forests". They fear that too many of our forests
are not being "conserved" as they should be and hope that the public soon realizes that
preservation is not the answer to healthy forests.
The City of Saskatoon (Canada) has a neat way of looking at it. (Note particularly the
second a) and b) – they are very honest... they have to be: it costs and the local budget is not
big enough to do everything: choices and priorities have to be made...)
Definition of Heritage
Heritage comprises three elements of history which, when interwoven, identify individuals
a. Material history - the conservation and interpretation of physical objects and sites such
as buildings, landscapes, streetscapes, archaeological sites, artifacts, and document;
b. Natural history - the conservation and interpretation of nature (for example, individual
species of birds, fish, and trees, or entire ecosystems) and palaeontological sites (study
of life in the geological past, e.g. fossils); and,
c. Human history - the research, conservation, and interpretation of past human activities
from the time of first human habitation to the present day. These activities include
those in the social, cultural, political, and economic spheres, which create the historic
background to individuals and communities.
The words "conservation" and "interpretation" are key elements in the definition used above.
They are not intended to be taken in a narrow, technical sense as they relate to one or more
specific aspects of heritage. Rather, they denote acknowledgment that:
a. conservation: A community is not a museum. While not every vestige of the
community's heritage could or should be saved, it is important to identify and protect
the key elements of the past, in Saskatoon's material, natural and human history; and,
b. interpretation: Telling the story of our past is essential. Conserving heritage is of
limited value if the public is unaware of it; heritage is made by the community and
belongs to the community.
"Material, natural and human heritage in the community of Saskatoon will be conserved and
interpreted in a planned, selective, and cost-feasible manner to the benefit of current and
future generations of Saskatoon citizens and visitors."
UNESCO (Cited Dept of Culture Media and Sport UK 
The UNESCO1 definition of cultural heritage outlines three main elements:
o Monuments: architectural works, works of monumental sculpture and painting, including
cave dwellings and inscriptions, and elements, groups of elements or structures of special
value from the point of view of archaeology, history, art or science;
o Groups of buildings: groups of separate or connected buildings which, because of their
architecture, their homogeneity or their place in the landscape, are of special value from
the point of view of history, art or science; and
o Sites: topographical areas, the combined works of man and of nature, which are of special
value by reason of their beauty or their interest from the archaeological, historical,
ethnological or anthropological points of view.
Such a characterisation relates to what might typically be termed ‘material’ cultural heritage,
which in turn can generally be ‘immoveable’, as in buildings and archaeological sites, or
‘moveable’ as with paintings and sculpture (Pearce and Mourato, 1998).
The conservation and enhancement of the cultural heritage resource is typically viewed as a
desirable undertaking. Preservation and study of cultural heritage contributes to overall social wellbeing
through understanding and appreciation of the past and its legacy.
(So the rationale: the why of conservation lies in social well-being produced through learning. TJ)