Place or Space: The site and the great outdoors

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Place and Space are two words that sound similar to each other. Their definitions differ in cultural heritage management. In our article DIY Values Analysis, we touch upon the subject, today we will delve into the context.

“Place means a geographically defined area. It may include elements, objects, spaces and views. Place may have tangible and intangible dimensions”, The Australia ICOMOS, The Burra Charter.

Do we all comprehend alike the definition?

Back in colonial times, the day came to define territories of indigenous people. The “western” team with the help of a local guide set out to define borders. They ask their guide to show them where is his land’s end and he points to a few yards away. They all reach the indicated point and ask to place the border there, however the guide points  further a few yards. Alas, they proceed to the new point, pose the same question getting the same answer. The process repeats a few more times until the puzzled team inquires why the guide keeps moving further and further. Then the guide responds that as he moves the point moves along with him. 

Space is a conceptual movable boundary for the guide, not defined by physical landmarks.


Our takeaway? 

Management of an archaeological site, church, mosque or any type of structure extends beyond the structure itself. Ask yourself before starting a management plan:

  • is the landscape surrounding the structure part of its meaning? 
  • does the space move beyond the visible boundaries?
  • are there other places, objects or practices related to the structure? 

For example, the Arena of Nimes, France, could not obtain world heritage status because the Musée de la Romanité modern design disrupts the cultural landscape around. 

Local Communities who care and want to protect their heritage are often unaware of the larger context of heritage management, therefore there is a need to expand their understanding of the properties that signify their treasures. 

I want to learn more:

 The Australia ICOMOS Charter for Places of Cultural Significance 2013

 ICOMOS New Zealand Charter for the Conservation of Places of Cultural Heritage Value (2010) 

 ICOMOS-IFLA Principles Concerning Rural Landscapes as Heritage  

The challenges of mapping complex indigenous spatiality: from abstract space to dwelling space, Robin Roth 

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