1. Balancing practice between meanings and fabric
Cultural landscapes and built heritage are important to people, but the ways in which these places are conserved are not responsive to people’s values, perceptions, and needs. On this site is a three-part investigation that looks at the state of conservation today, what it could look like tomorrow, and questions that need to be answered followed by ways you can become involved in changing research and practice.
- Conservation today — Is there a problem with the orthodox theory and practice of conserving the historic environment today?
- Conservation tomorrow? — Moving from continuity of fabric to the continuity of meanings: a heterodox approach.
- Questions that remain — It’s not so easy to convert heterodox conservation theory into practice.
- Take action — Ways in which you can participate in making heritage conservation theory and practice more responsive to people.
2. Why practice needs to change
The orthodox practice of heritage conservation excels at talking to its own, expert members, but fails to communicate essential messages to everyday people as to how and why it is important to conserve the historic environment. One reason for this disconnect is that orthodox practice focuses too much on fabric and not enough on the people who benefit from heritage conservation. Without people, there is no reason to conserve; the values and perceptions of most stakeholders need to become as central to conservation practice as the conservation of physical fabric.
- J. Wells. (2015). Making a case for historic place conservation based on people’s values. Forum Journal of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, 29 (3), 44-62.
- J. Wells. (2013). The Historic Preservation Network—changing the ontology of practice. Environmental Design Research Association Newsletter.
- J. Wells. (2010). Valuing historic places: Traditional and contemporary approaches. In Proceedings of the first international conference on the preservation and rehabilitation of Iraqi city centers, Baghdad, Iraq, March 22-27, 2010.
- J. Wells. (2007). The plurality of truth in culture, context, and heritage: A post-structuralist analysis of urban conservation charters. City and Time, 3 (2), 1-14.
- J. Wells. (n.d.). “Historical Significance through the Lens of Contemporary Social, Cultural, and Experiential Values” (whitepaper)
3. Methods to gather evidence
How can social science research methodologies be used to gather empirical evidence to substantiate practice?
- J. Wells. (2014). A methodological framework for assessing the ‘spirit and feeling’ of World Heritage properties. In T. Gensheimer and C. L. Guichard (eds.), World Heritage and national registers: Stewardship in perspective, 19-32. New Brunswick, NJ and London: Transaction Publishers.
- J. Wells. (2012). Using sequential mixed social science methods to define and measure heritage conservation performance. In S.M. Zancheti & K. Simila (eds.), 6th international seminar on urban conservation: Measuring heritage conservation performance. Recife, Brazil and Rome: CECI & ICCROM.
- J. Wells. (2011). Historic preservation, significance, and phenomenology. Environmental & Architectural Phenomenology Newsletter, 22 (1), 13-15.
4. Evidence to change practice
There is very little evidence to substantiate the way in which the conservation of the historic environment is performed, especially in context with the goal that its activities are in the public good. What does “evidence-based heritage conservation” look like, especially when such evidence is gathered via social science research methodologies?
- J. Wells & E.D. Baldwin. (2012). Historic preservation, significance, and age value: A comparative phenomenology of historic Charleston and the nearby new-urbanist community of I’On. Journal of Environmental Psychology, 32 (4), 384-400. (2.549 journal impact factor)
- J. Wells. (2010). Our history is not false: Perspectives from the revitalisation culture. International Journal of Heritage Studies, 16 (6), 417–438.
5. Defining the discipline
What exactly is a “built heritage conservator” or a professional “historic preservationist”? What characteristics do they share with other built environment disciplines? What are the challenges in working with architects, planners, and other built environment specialists?
- J. Wells. (2009). Historic Preservation: Challenges to collaboration with other disciplines. In Proceedings of the Environmental Design Research Association (EDRA) 40 conference, Kansas City, MO, May 27 – May 31.
6. Teaching heterodox theory and practice
How should postsecondary educators of heritage conservation and historic preservation degree programs address heterodox conservation theory and practice? For these educators, there is little agreement on how to address this topic and for what material students should be held accountable.
- B. Stiefel and J. Wells (Eds.). (2014). Preservation education: Sharing best practices and finding common ground. Hanover and London: University Press of New England.
- J. Wells and B. Stiefel. (2014). An introduction to postsecondary historic environment education. In B. Stiefel and J. Wells (Eds.) Preservation education: Sharing best practices and finding common ground. Hanover and London: University Press of New England.
- J. Wells and B. Stiefel. (2014). Conclusion: Common problems and potential solutions. In B. Stiefel and J. Wells (Eds.) Preservation education: Sharing best practices and finding common ground. Hanover and London: University Press of New England.