Friday, October 24, 2008

Making the Case for the Conservation and Preservation of Our Cultural Heritage

From my Salzburg network :

Connecting to the World's Collections:
Making the Case for the Conservation and Preservation of our Cultural Heritage
28 Oct - 01 Nov, 2009 (Session 468)

Abstract:Museums and libraries - large and small - around the world house our artistic and cultural heritage. As guardians of unique and irreplaceable treasures, including art works, documents, artifacts, and digital materials, museums and libraries bear the tremendous responsibility of preserving our cultural legacy for present and future generations. Collections stewardship is central to the mission of all cultural heritage institutions, and yet resources for proper preservation and treatment are often sorely lacking, emergency plans are not always in place, and public awareness of and support for conservation is not as strong as it should be. In addition, advances in conservation research and preservation technologies are offering new solutions and strategies for addressing conservation needs.
This session will bring together an international group of cultural leaders, conservation and preservation specialists who work with museums and libraries, representatives of conservation training institutions and associations as well as cultural policymakers to engage in an open exchange of views on optimizing collection conservation. Given the results of such research initiatives as the Heritage Health Index report in the United States, which was funded by the Institute of Museum and Library Services and found that artifacts in America's collections are at risk and in need of immediate attention, there is a clear need for a call to action on this issue, at least in some parts of the world. Participants will thus consider a series of questions: What are the greatest risks to our collections and what strategies can be implemented to manage them? How can sufficient resources be secured to assure - at the very least - minimal conservation standards? What needs to be done in the area of effective emergency preparedness planning? What challenges and opportunities are presented by new technologies and digitization? How can cultural heritage institutions make a better case for conservation to policy makers and private donors to secure the funding they need for proper collection care? How can museums and libraries connect people to their collections to garner the public support they need to make better conservation and preservation a priority and a reality?
The fee for this session is 3,300 EURO. The fee covers the cost of the program, accommodations, and meals. Limited scholarship funding may be available for those who are unable to pay the full fee (i.e. from developing countries or NGOs). Participants seeking scholarship assistance must submit an application for financial aid to our admissions office.

Related Sessions
Achieving the Freer Circulation of Cultural Artifacts
09 May - 14 May, 2008 (Session 453) Libraries in the 21st Century
23 Oct - 30 Oct, 2004 (Session 422)
© 2008 Salzburg Global Seminar

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Mega Eltra and Beyond

Yesterday I received a request from Catrini, the Executive Director of Indonesia Heritage Trust, about slides & stories of Mega Eltra case in Medan. Earlier this year, my colleague, Sita from Yogya, has suggested me also to write an article to commemorate 5 years demolition of the building.

In 2003 on behalf of Sumatra Heritage Trust, I was involved in an effort to save the Mega Eltra building from demolition done by a triangle conspiracy amongst bureaucrats, militaires and capitalists. The story went relatively dramatic and seemed to leave a mark in the Indonesian heritage network. I have to say that I didn't realised about it. My colleagues and I in the Sumatra Heritage Trust did what we supposed to do without any intention of publicity or what so ever. If the case received a lot of publicity it was because of the scale and nature of the case itself. The fact that it was done by the perfect conspiracy we could think of in Indonesia : those who have authority to decide, those who have physical power and those who have money. And we? We are citizens who merely depend on our common sense. Nothing more.

That nature of work, based on common sense, is my understanding and principle of my actions in heritage field, either as a conceptor or practitioner. The Mega Eltra case was one of my involvement, but I am involved in many other cases, too, non-stop since 1993. I was invited by Toeti Sudibyo and Frances Affandy to help Bandung Heritage with their newsletters. Since then, heritage became and become my passions because its contribution to human's life. It is far beyond historical buildings & story telling. Heritage is so wide and deep as width & depth as life itself. Since then I also learned that heritage is very close to politics, power and money. Even now when I live in the Netherlands, I also learned the same things. Modus operandi might be in different forms but the principles are similar. That is why I always see that all cases are equally interesting and important. What I want to say is that I never think Mega Eltra as a special case. All cases are specials for me. But as Catrini said, she needed a hint to let her audience learned about community participation in heritage movements in Indonesia. And pictures speak always more than thousand words.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Only If We Could Choose

Lately I am amazed about discussions on the media related to the background of people as if we could choose where we are born, from whom and how we look like.

Barack Obama is an example whom globally exposed by the media of being special because he is the first African American president candidate.

Yesterday, Ahmed Aboutaleb was chosen as the new Mayor of Rotterdam. Leefbaar Rotterdam, the opposition party, was against the decision because of his Morocco background. He has been living in the Netherlands since he was 16 and openly declared his loyalty to the country through his positions in politics. So far he has a good reputation and good intentions through his efforts to integrate immigrants and marginal groups into the Dutch society. But why did some people want him to deny his Moroccan identity and background? "Send his Moroccan passport by mail back to the Moroccan King," they said. What a suggestion. Why can't people just value his capacities, his records and achievements?

Identity is something that someone gets naturally. It is unfair to judge someone based on his/her identity. It is too shallow to stereotype someone based on skin colour or background, especially with negative tone. Could we choose our identity? And who says that one identity is better than the other?

Thursday, October 16, 2008

The Threatening Heritage

Last night I went to the "Erfgoed Arena" (erfgoed = heritage), regular discussions organized by the Reinwardt Academy and Erfgoed Nederland. The theme was the threatening heritage. It is not heritage which are threaten as generally understood but heritage which threat the identity and history of a nation (in this case the Netherlands).

Rob van der Laarse from the UvA said that a heritage can threat depends on context and how we look and interpret it. He gave some examples, e.g. a statement of Princess Maxima that a Dutch identity doesn't exist (which widely quoted by everyone) or a new painting collection of the Rijks Museum in Amsterdam which represented national socialist movement in country.

The other speaker was mostly talking about importance of accepting multicultural heritage in daily life, comparing his experiences in Israel (lived 12 years there) and the Netherlands. Talking about Jews, lately a researcher from UvA has exposed a house in Amsterdam which he said still intact with original typical Jews house interior. Last night he was there, too, so we had a long discussion about this house.

The last speaker talked about recognition of slavery done by the Dutch for 300 years in Suriname, Netherlands Antillian and Ghana. It led to an interesting discussion about the existence of Zwarte Piet (black helpers) who always appears every December together with Sinterklaas (the Saint Claus). There is other interpretation, too, from the Dutch side that actually the Zwarte Piet, is not a black slavery but a white man who try to enter a house to deliver gifts through chimney.

And the discussions shifted to the colonial periods of the Dutch, mentioned also Indonesia and other colonies. I was always wonder how the Dutch felt about this because this topic appeared so often in discussions and every time psychologically I simply became awkward to react. A kind of abstract situation which is complicated to comprehend. At least for me.

One young student admitted that she didn't know about colonial history until she entered university. Luckily she studied heritage in the Reinwardt that is why she was exposed to history. What about young people out there who have nothing to do with heritage or history studies?

All and all, I found Erfgoed Arena is a useful discussion platform for students and senior ones either teachers or practitioners in heritage field.

Friday, October 03, 2008

Asian Cities - Legacies of Modernity

The 7th mAAN Conference will be held in New Delhi, India, from 23rd to 25th February 2009. The mAAN-7 conference will be located at the famous India International Centre and in close proximity to the early-20th century heart of New Delhi, one of the most endangered urban heritages of the modern world.

The fate of “‘Lutyens’ New Delhi” – as it is widely known, in memory of the garden city’s chief architect and author of its final plan, Edwin Lutyens – is symptomatic of the beleaguered future of other such modern cities, where the heritage precinct circumscribes a prized parcel of land, preserving the image of the modern city, but at odds with the density and social character of the contemporary.

The fascinating aspect of the modern city and its tenuous existence within the contemporary metropolis is that it not only represents the spatial imagination and technology of the recent past, but is also a receptacle for polarities of privacy and publicity, of native and foreign, of order and chaos and status and hierarchy, that are now being replaced by the simulacra of post-industrial society. Space is no longer a binding or a divisive force; it is instead a common ground where the common interest of consumerism can be played out. Landscape is no longer a binding of spatial relationships; it is now the ornament worn by the enclaves of wealth. What binds the whole is infrastructure, the single parameter for judging whether the modern should be relegated to the urban trash heap or allowed to exist as a symbol of luxury or economy.

mAAN invites presentations about the myriad ways in which the modern city contributes to the formation of a modern identity. It shall inquire whether, by revitalizing the modern, the city is itself reinvented. And it will promote the idea that concerted action is needed – in the form of documentation, discourse and intervention – in order to conserve the vital socio-cultural and economic resource represented by the modern Asian city.

Call for PapersThe organizers of the conference invite abstracts for papers on the following themes:1. The knowing modern cities of Asia2. Regulating the modern architectural precinct3. Participatory processes in revitalization4. The educational imperative: training for conservation
Abstracts should be 500 words, with the name of the principal and subsidiary authors clearly indicated. Keywords should be indicated at the end of abstracts.

Abstracts should be E-mailed to the mAAN7 Secretariat ( latest by 3rd November 2008. Authors of the short-listed abstracts shall be required to submit their complete papers latest by 2nd January 2009.

SESSION 1The ‘knowing’ modern cities of Asia
A large number of Asian cities carry evidences of continuous historical evolution, from ancient civilizations to the contemporary urban agglomeration. Each of these cities, from Istanbul and Cairo to Delhi to Beijing and Tokyo, has an ever-changing urban matrix in which the historical cores and precincts are inextricably embedded. To know the contemporary Asian city is to appreciate the accretive character of urban growth as well as the durability of the city itself, which seems to have the capacity to absorb endlessly. However, heritage in general is under threat in these cities. Because the heritage building or precinct is usually an awkward artifact -- resistant to the logic of modern planning and management yet compelling in its social and aesthetic unity -- it has become the bane of the urban developer, more convenient to be discarded than to be assimilated. It is as if each building knows something, is a teller of history, and could either be welcomed or be treated as a threat, telling stories that contemporary society does not want to hear.
The session will combine presentations that explore the urban knowledge embedded in modern heritage, and the process by which the conservation and revitalization process can be a enlightening process, informing and assuring the present-day society of its past, uncovering a knowledge that is too valuable to be lost. Papers could engage with the theoretical, practical and documentary aspects of the subject, presenting ways of seeing the Asian city that have been overlooked and potentials in heritage conservation that have not been tapped.

SESSION 2Regulating the modern architectural precinct
The modern architectural precinct presents a peculiar set of problems for the heritage conservationist and the city administrator. Unlike ancient heritage, which has a morphological character and scale that is radically different from the plan and intent of the contemporary metropolis, the modern precinct represents a stage in the evolution of the metropolis itself. Preserving and revitalizing the modern precinct is thus a task that requires the administrator to be also a historian, and the developer to be also a curator. Drafting a set of regulations for a modern precinct is like creating a code for preserving a specific practice of urban living, not merely the edifice that represents a distant past.
mAAN invites papers and presentations on the subject of legislation and administration for the specific purpose of revitalizing modern heritage precincts. We invite a discussion of examples from Asian and non-Asian countries, where the existence of built heritage from the 19th and 20th centuries has attracted the attention of planners, administrators and conserving communities. The session shall focus on the premise that good governance lies at the core of a policy regime that is directed towards preserving a character that is unique and irreplaceable, thereby preventing – legally and institutionally -- the assault of modern heritage by conspicuous consumption of urban space.

SESSION 3Participatory processes in revitalization
A significant aspect of the revitalization of modern heritage is the growing need for local participation and collaboration amongst the public and various stakeholders, as well as the active involvement of the government. Unlike the preservation of archeological sites, modern heritage is usually a lived-in built environment that commands a high price, because of its usually privileged location within the metropolis, and also houses a category of persons -- say, the industrial worker, or the welfare state officer -- that is becoming outmoded and redundant in the new economy. Modern heritage precincts, many of them residential or mixed-use planned neighborhoods, are sites of conflict and potential resolution, thus becoming the locations for cooperative rebuilding of the city.
mAAN seeks presentations of successful participatory processes leading to the preservation and revitalization of modern heritage precincts. Papers could explore a variety of approaches to encourage participation, analyze existing models of the conservation process, and document examples of successful community-based revitalization.

SESSION 4The educational imperative: training for conservation
It is a widely perceived that the process and final outcomes of the revitalization of modern heritage requires the professionals and other stakeholders to have particular skills; intellectual, social and communicational. Further, these skills are different for different Asian societies, depending on the relationships between practitioners and government, and between society and professionals.
mAAN would like to explore the diversity as well as the commonality between the scenarios in different countries, in order to arrive at a shared understanding of the steps that need to be taken; generally, at a pan-Asian level, and particularly, for specific countries, to ensure that the field of heritage revitalization is adequately served by professionals with the appropriate skills, knowledge and sensibility.
Papers would typically address the challenges of education and training for the field of modern heritage revitalization, either discussing and comparing different pedagogical and professional approaches, or sharing case studies that illustrate emerging dimensions of the phenomenon. Papers could also discuss the variety of techniques now available for the task of revitalization, and the ways in which knowledge-processing, mapping and similar technologies are able to assist the field of heritage conservation.

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