Time and Space of Heritage Preservation: Conservation Theoretical Perspective


  • Kurmo Konsa




Culture, Heritage, Conservation, Restoration, Metaphysical Time Models, Viollet-Le-Duc, John Ruskin


In this article, I discuss the categories of time and space in light
of heritage conservation. I demonstrate that heritage creation is
the simultaneous creation of human time and space and that the
critical treatment of heritage requires a more specific analysis of
these terms. First, I look at how the creation of human space occurs
through objects, and how the objects of the physical environment
become things, i.e. parts of our living world. The world can only be
understood through change. This is a fundamental finding that forms
the basis for both elementary senses and complicated philosophies.
In order to explain the change in heritage-related space, I am using
the terms artificialisation and heritage technology. Artificialisation
means the anthropogenic transformation of the environment,
which takes place mainly with the help of technological systems.
Therefore, the environment encompasses physical, biological and
genetic environments, as well as the human culture with its past.
In this environment, it is impossible to distinguish between the
human and non-human, since they make up a single hybrid whole.
Artificialisation is by no means a determined course in history; it is
a human means of description, a metaphor that helps to explain the
processes ongoing in nature and human society. According to this
approach, the heritage process is one technique in the artificialisation
of the environment.

Although change is central to conservation theory, it is also a
concept that causes the greatest doubts and ambiguous interpretations.
The reason for this is very simple: change is related to time, which
is a foundational concept. In this article, I use metaphysical time
models to analyse the life course of things and their damage. Finally,
I also refer to the conservation theories of Eugène Viollet-le-Duc
and John Ruskin. The essential difference between the conservation
theories that are discussed here lies in their attitudes toward time,
and the related problems of object authenticity and identity. In the
framework of the presentist model, it is not possible to solve the
main contradiction connected to restoration. Stylistic restoration
ruins the authenticity of buildings as historical documents; however
without restoration, the objects would be destroyed and thereby
lose their historical value. However, a solution to this dilemma can
be found based on the eternalist time model, which helps connect
heritage to contemporary time, and avoid its physical, legal, and
mental separation from the everyday life of society. The fact that
including objects as a part of heritage may damage them instead of
preserving them should not be overlooked. The authenticity of an
object is not related to any ideal state in its history but to a conceptual,
factual and actual state in its wholeness.


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Author Biography

Kurmo Konsa

Kurmo Konsa (b. 1965) is an Associate Professor at the Department of Archival Studies at the University of Tartu, and Professor of Conservation at Tartu Art College. He has an MSc in microbiology from the University of Tartu, and an MA in Book Science from Tallinn University. Kurmo Konsa holds a PhD in Informational Science from Tallinn University. His PhD thesis focuses on the preservation of written heritage and conservation surveys issues. In the past he has worked at the University of Tartu Library as a paper conservator and at the Estonian Postal Museum as Conservator and Curator of Collections.