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Heritage identification and protection
The key steps in identifying and protecting our heritage are:
- Find the facts
- Document them
- Analyse them
- Determine what you are going to do with the facts and findings, ie., develop a plan
- Prepare the necessary submissions
- Implement the plan.
Step 1 Identification
Before something can be protected or conserved it must be identified. Identification of cultural heritage places can be derived from many sources including local knowledge, windscreen surveys (driving around a locality/suburb/region noting places), heritage and/or thematic studies, local area plans, and local government planing schemes.
The first step in assessing cultural heritage significance requires gathering and recording information about the item. This includes documentary, oral and physical evidence.
Step 2 Documentation
This is then written as a report that may be part of a conservation plan, heritage tour book or nomination for inclusion on a heritage register.
Step 3 Analysis
Why is a place or object or documentary record significant? Because it has social, aesthetic, historic, scientific, special, bio-diversity, ecosystem, geo-diversity values or some other value for past, present and future generations.
The purpose of the analysis is to specify and verify the significance of the material you have collected. Generally, facts are significant because of their relationship to other people, places, things, events or values. That relationship can be as a cause, an effect, as an example, as a circumstance that throws light on something else, or that provides evidence of its identity, use, location or some other characteristic.
The steps to assess cultural heritage significance are:
- Gather physical, oral and documentary evidence
- Identify and communicate with relevant community members/stakeholders for further information
- Research the historical, material, design or architectural context and how this item has been influenced by the course of history
- Compare with similar sites or objects
- Start writing the report
- Assess and analyse all the information about the item according to the appropriate criteria
- Write the conclusions which form the statement of cultural heritage significance.
It is important in this process to record material as it is collected and to continually review your work to check for gaps in the trail of evidence, the logic of your analysis and that your probable conclusions will be balanced and sensible.
Step 4 Develop a protection plan
In order to protect heritage places, objects and/or archives it is necessary first to identify, research and write a report about them that includes their significance using criteria such as those used by the Australian Heritage Council, appropriate government or National Trust. Each government section in this handbook includes the criteria used for assessing cultural heritage significance by the relevant agency. While most authorities only require one criterion it is usual to include two, three or more.
The report should also include recommendations about what needs to be done to provide actual protection. In many cases listing on the appropriate register can provide protection. This is clearest in the case of places.
Places listed on a state or territory government heritage register are protected by legislation; places on a local government heritage listing also have some protection, usually under statutory planning controls. The Register of the National Estate only protects places that belong to the Commonwealth. While National Trust registers have no statutory authority they do have moral strength and have a high degree of public credibility.
Nominations for heritage listings have several components:
- Firstly the identification of the place or object, this usually includes:
- current and former names of the place or object
- ownership details
- land description
- history including the historical context/relationships relevant to the place or object
- description as it is at the time of writing
- points of cultural heritage significance that are drawn from the history and description
Where listing is not an option, because no appropriate list exists or because the matter is not of sufficient significance, other options must be identified. These can include a conservation or archival plan, the provision of suitable premises, changes to traffic arrangements, building covenants or whatever is necessary to protect the item or place.
In any event, the plan should include:
- A clear statement of what is proposed
- appropriate costings, and where you expect the funding should come from, and
- the relationship between:
- the proposed action
- who is to do it
- the sequence of events, including proposed time frames, and
- the risks involved for all stakeholders. In this context, risks includes the negative consequences of doing or not doing what is proposed and an indication of the likelihood of that those consequences will occur. If possible show how those risks can be managed.
Step 5 Preparing a submission
In preparing a submission
- Identify who is to receive the submission and
- Present it in such a way that it makes compelling sense to the recipient.
Who is to receive the submission?
If submissions are to be made to government bodies, remember that, regardless of the level of government, they generally have a set of criteria for approving grants or assistance of this nature. Make sure you understand the criteria. Talk to the relevant officials and ask them to explain what is required. Make sure that you address all the criteria. If you think that some are not relevant show why you think that is the case. Remember, if you do not address the criteria explicitly, it is less likely that they will approve you application.
If submissions are to be made to private enterprise, it is again worthwhile to talk to the relevant officers of the company. In many cases, particularly large corporations, they will also have written criteria. If so make your case in the light of them. If not try to ascertain what are the important considerations in their decision making. Make sure you understand if there are to be any ‘strings’ attached, and that you can live with them.
Step 6 Presentation
It is not necessary to have a fancy presentation, although if you can, it won’t do your case any harm. The important point to remember about submissions is that the purpose is to gain a favourable decision, not to demonstrate your research capability or engage in a public relations exercise. A short executive summary is often useful. It should include:
- A short statement of what you are asking for
- A summary of the facts or findings of your research. This should be the most telling points only. Refrain from trying to fill it with all the detail.
- A statement of reasons why they should agree to your submission. Again this should be as short and focused as you can make it.
You might then include, as attachments:
- A more detailed summary of your research and analysis. In particular, include expert opinions and reports; and
- your plan.
The extent of your detailed planning is sometimes a significant factor in a successful outcome. Of particular relevance in many contexts, eg federal government and big business, is the risk analysis, because it helps them make a business decision and provides an accountability framework for them.
Provision should be made to ensure that the objectives that you set for yourself are in fact being met, that plans remain relevant and that money is spent and accounted for properly.