Any effective area conservation
programme requires a comprehensive inventory of
significant sites, structures, spaces, routes, vistas
and features, and their character-defining attributes.
It must also document dynamic factors : use and
activity, the strength and value of links and relations
between various units, and economic and social values.
The resulting inventory can focus attention on key
strengths, priority needs, potential for improvement
and also provide a base for evaluating the impact
of proposed development options. The utility of
the conservation data-base is a function of the
quality of research, its completeness and its accessibility
to those who could benefit from its use.
All inventories begin with research
focused on individual units within the field of
study. Many disciplines may contribute to the site
conservation research process, but normally these
would include history, archaeology and architecture.
The effectiveness of the documentation
programmes depends on the quality of research undertaken.
In turn, effective research requires the establishment
of clear goals. Indeed, to ensure effective and
integrated results from the efforts of individuals
on a multi-disciplinary team, projects should begin
with a clear definition of research purpose and
scope by the conservation team leader. Without this
definition, research efforts will be unfocused,
will likely overlap to an unacceptable degree, will
provide only a random sampling of data available,
and when put to the test, will likely fail to answer
One of the most important early
steps in any conservation project is the preparation
of an as-found record. This work is usually the
province of the architect, working in conjunction
with engineers and/or engineering/architectural
Whatever vicissitudes the passage
of time may bring to a site, a complete and accurate
heritage record permits the survival of site meaning
forever, on at least one level. The preparation
of as-found drawings before World War II of structures
in the old town of Warsaw in Poland permitted their
public importance to again find three dimensional
expression during post-war reconstruction of the
More frequently, heritage recording
is used for more prosaic, though not less valuable
tasks. It can provide a check on the accuracy of
original construction drawings; it can provide a
base from which new repair drawings may be developed;
it can provide not only design information, but
evidence of deformation or changes within a structure;
and the process of developing the detailed record
itself is an excellent means of developing first-hand
understanding of a site's internal relationships
Heritage recording may be carried
out to many levels of detail and information and
may employ a broad range of techniques. The determination
of appropriate levels and methodologies requires
a clear understanding of recording needs within
the agency or individual authorizing the work. Though
a great many new recording techniques and tools
are now available, ranging from aerial remote-sensing,
to computerized three-dimensional digital plotting,
to stereo photogrammetry, it is important that the
technologically most advanced techniques be employed
only to gain necessary and well-defined benefits.
In many instances, the traditional
plumb-bob, chalk and line and clipboard will be
sufficient to provide desired accuracy and completeness.
As with other research tools, though the recording
activity may initially be focused on individual
sites, it is important to develop means to consolidate
the results. The preparation of streetscape drawings,
three-dimensional orthogonal projections or scaled
models are very successful in assisting in understanding
the complex morphology of historic towns.
HISTORIC & ARCHITECTURAL
The historian is usually invited
to begin the research process. His or her efforts,
directed to interpretation of the documentary evidence
of construction and life within a site, do not impair
the integrity of the resource itself, (where, for
example, archaeology might). As a result, other
research disciplines usually prefer to await completion
of documentary research before beginning their own
efforts. Their efforts, as with all research disciplines,
are most fruitful when directed to clearly established
questions or needs.
Within the research framework,
the historian's efforts should also provide a basis
for follow-up : What questions remain unanswered?
What hypotheses require testing? The involvement
of historians may continue on an episodic basis,
as new information - or lack thereof - gives new
focus to research inquiry.
The historian's work may be complemented
by that of architectural historians concerned primarily
with placing a building's stylistic expression and
technological development in a larger context. Their
analysis identifies those elements which play key
roles in the defintion of a site's heritage character.
Equally important are on-site architectural investigators
whose judgements in carrying out "above-ground archaeology"
may complement and confirm the documentary record.
The primary focus however of most
on-site architectural work is understanding the
physical health and stability of a structure through
inspection, testing and analysis. These observations
may play a crucial role in determining repair priorities
and strategies. Again, as with the other strands
of the research process, while it is important to
establish understanding for individual units in
the ensemble, it is essential to see that these
observations are brought together and the patterns
of use, activity and change fully explored.
Archaeology derives cultural understanding
from the analysis of below-ground deposits of cultural
material. Because it destroys the material it studies
(in excavation) and therefore, unlike the historian's
work, can not be re-done, archaeologists ply their
trade in a very professionally cautious manner.
Their innate caution is reinforced by the rapid
advances being made in the scientific analysis of
finds. What was discarded only ten years ago may
now yield a great deal of information. The corollary
is obvious: the longer material remains in the ground,
the more understanding the future is likely to bring
Within well-constructed research
plans, thorough historic analysis and careful surveys
of archaeological potential should permit the archaeologist
to limit his excavation to the smallest sample of
test sites consistent with unanswered research questions.
Salvage operations (where, for
example, the need to repair foundations will result
in the removal of all adjacent soil) would normally
require the removal of archaeological material within
a zone of disturbance. Archaeological research is
not an inexpensive endeavour. Provision must be
made in research budgets for the analysis and conservation
of finds. It is the professional responsibility
of archaeologists to record and analyze the nature
and provenience of all finds, to provide the best
possible field conservation of artefacts, and to
ensure stable and accessible long-term storage conditions.
This may require 2-4 times the time and budget required
for excavation itself.
In the last decade, the potential
of archaeology to interest the urban public directly
in the substance and message of their past has caught
the imagination of local preservation groups and
agencies. Many cities have initiated high-profile
projects, anticipating development of selected sites
and capitalizing both on the capacity of a developer
to pay for the research as part of site development
costs, and public interest in volunteering to assist
with excavation on highly visible, threatened sites.
Those almost ad hoc responses
to development pressures have inspired public archaeology
programmes focused on long-term research strategies
in many world heritage cities. In contemplating
sites which may merit exploration, respect should
be accorded to the professional responsibilities
of archaeologists. Their duty is not the compulsory
excavation of potentially interesting sites - rather
the reverse, to use minimal excavation to answer
significant research questions.
SITE & ENSEMBLE EVALUATION
Once research efforts, at whatever
level of intensity or investigation, are complete,
our improved understanding of a site will allow
us to evaluate its significance. Significance, of
course, may lie in a range of areas, from architectural
design to historic associations, to the contextual
rapport enjoyed by a particular site.
While research and evaluation
is best carried out by those trained for the task,
evaluation, to be effective, usually requires consensus
within a community concerning the values in question.
Using a process to establish consensus provides
the best guarantee of public acceptance of the results,
and long-term credibility of the exercise. In historic
towns and urban quarters, the significance of individual
sites, taken in isolation, may be enhanced - or
diminished - by the nature of its relationship to
The ensemble, in turn, may derive
value from the relationship of its structures to
its spaces - be they streets or topographical features.
Once significance has been established, it is important
that evaluation clearly note the physical elements
in which such significance may lie, so that those
planning future action are given explicit design
guidance. As indicated at the beginning , the building
or site research report is a basic building block
in an inventory of a community's "heritage resources"
Plotting the results of individual
evaluations built on such reports will indicate
patterns of significant and not-so- significant
elements, and assist in tailoring strategies to
respect these patterns. Evaluation should be understood
as an open-ended process. New information, new disclosures
are regularly made in all communities; perceptions
of worth change as our distance from past needs
and circumstances alters.
The patterns resulting from individual
research and evaluation projects should be subject
to reinterpretation on a regular basis. And as with
everything in conservation - the rule of caution
should apply : when doubt exists regarding value,
one should intervene only as necessary to improve
health or stability; tomorrow's communities may
see value in areas we cannot.