Concept

The Nara Document on Authenticity will celebrate its 20th anniversary in 2014. At this time, it is important to review what the Document achieved and to identify related work that remains to be done, first in refining and applying the approaches proposed in the Document, and second, extending them to accommodate current thinking on heritage, especially focusing on the relationship to societies.

The Nara Document, adopted in 1994,“propose[d] a doctrinal shift towards recognition of the relativity of the concept of authenticity, due to the diversity of cultures and manifestations of heritage” (Cameron, 2009). Without the Document, it would have been difficult to inscribe wooden buildings as World Heritage or to implement the new concept of cultural landscape.

After the Nara Document was developed there was too little discussion on the extent to which the determination of authenticity accommodates change over time. Paragraph 13 of the Document states that “Depending on the nature of the cultural heritage, its cultural context, and its evolution through time, authenticity judgments may be linked to the worth of a great variety of sources of information”(emphasis added). Para. 9 of the Document acknowledges “original and subsequent characteristics of the cultural heritage”(emphasis added). This idea of ‘progressive authenticity’ was not completely new (Von Droste, Bertilsson, 1995: 3 in Stovel 2007).

Furthermore “social-cultural authenticity” is referred to, whereby values and significances can only be built up in communication and dialogue with the others in society (Jokilehto, 2006).

In 2005, a revision of the Operational Guidelines for the World Heritage Convention incorporated the insights from the Nara Document. Authenticity remained a qualifying factor (para 79), but was defined more broadly both in relation to cultural context (para 81) and with a list of a wider variety of attributes such as use, function, language and other forms of intangible heritage, spirit ad feeling(UNESCO, Operational Guidelines 2005:para 82).

Integrity was added as a new qualifying concept at the same time:

Integrity is a measure of the wholeness and intactness of the natural and/or cultural heritage and its attributes. Examining the conditions of integrity, therefore requires assessing the extent to which the property: a) includes all elements necessary to express its outstanding universal value; b) is of adequate size to ensure the complete representation of the features and processes which convey the property’s significance; c) suffers from adverse effects of development and/or neglect. (UNESCO, Operational Guidelines 2005:para 88).

This requirement was further elaborated as “social-functional integrity” that is referred to the identification of the functions and processes on which its development over time has been based (Jokilehto, supra).

Even after these modifications to the Operational Guidelines more debate was needed on the different ways in which authenticity (and integrity) could best be defined and used to improve both the identification and the management of cultural heritage (Jokilehto 2006, Stovel 2007, also here). This was particularly important because of the merged criteria for natural and cultural heritage (Expert meeting on cultural landscapes and authenticity, 2007).

However, even after the Nara Document many nomination dossiers continued to use the concept of authenticity to refer to the maintenance of original design, material, setting, and workmanship (Labadi, 2010).

This implies that there has also been insufficient discussion about the relationship between authenticity and social change in different contexts. This is regrettable, since the authenticity test affects not only conservation practice, but also a number of direct and indirect stakeholders.

Paragraph 83 of the Operational Guidelines acknowledges the complexity of ensuring that culturally specific and community-defined values are included in determinations of authenticity and integrity for World Heritage properties. Following the Budapest Declaration of 2002, greater emphasis has been placed on “the active involvement of our local communities at all levels in the identification, protection and management of our World Heritage properties”. It should also be pointed out that community is now the 5th strategic objective of the World Heritage Committee.

This symposium is organized with the purpose to activate discussions on authenticity (and, if appropriate, integrity) and social changes, paying special attention to communities, as a first step toward the 20th anniversary of the Nara Document and beyond.

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