Glossary

Civil expert: Members of a community who understand their own heritage through cultural and personal expression and intuition. As such, these individuals are knowledge experts in terms of the characteristics of heritage that are meaningful to their community and reasons why these meanings are important. Meanings held by civil experts can consist of intangible heritage and folklore, among many other possibilities. The validity of these meanings is not judged against scientific “truth” or “facts”; as such, these meanings do not need to be congruent with the values held by professionals who work in the built environment.

Conventional expert: Individuals who are professionally trained and educated built heritage practitioners, planners, and environmental conservators. Conventional experts describe their meanings and values as objective and based on the scientific method and facts; these meanings depend on a Western, positivistic, Cartesian paradigm for their validity.

Heritage: A description of the meanings assigned to older moveable or immovable objects; these meanings may, or may not, be grounded in historical facts.

Heritage conservation: A verb that describes the protection of the physical fabric and/or sociocultural meanings of heritage objects.

Heritage object: A generic description of older movable items, such as found in museums, or immoveable items, such as buildings, that are considered to have historical or cultural significance of some kind.

Heritage studies: The study of the identification, protection, and treatment of heritage from a social science perspective. See “heterodox theory and practice” for a description of its origin.

Heterodox theory and practice: In the 1970s, post-processual archaeology began to question the positivistic assumptions of archaeology practice and emphasized the role of interpretation in heritage conservation. Building on this precedent, David Lowenthal published The Past is a Foreign Country in 1985, which is considered to be the start of the “heritage studies” discipline, which takes a critical approach to orthodox heritage conservation practice. Heterodox theory is therefore associated with the work of heritage studies scholars, who are largely from an anthropological background. The primary goal of heterodox theory, which is based on a post-modern paradigm, is to conserve the meanings associated with heritage and empower communities with “bottom-up” approaches; these meanings are gathered from a wide variety of stakeholders and interpreted via social science research methodologies. One of the first consistent uses of the term “heterodox heritage” is by Lucas Lixinski in his article, “Between Orthodoxy and Heterodoxy: The Troubled Relationships between Heritage Studies and Heritage Law” (International Journal of Heritage Studies, vol. 21, no. 3, 2015, pp. 203-215).

Historic environment: A holistic description of the collection of older buildings, structures, and landscape elements that exist in the human environment. Often the definition of “historic” in this phrase is vague, but it can mean that these heritage objects are officially recognized as “historic” by government bodies or informally by certain cultural groups. This phrase is sometimes used interchangeably with “cultural landscapes” and is in most common usage in the United Kingdom and Australia.

Historic preservation: A verb that is only used in the United States to primarily to describe the conservation of built heritage, but can also be construed to apply to the conservation of cultural landscapes.

Orthodox theory and practice: The dominant way that built heritage conservation is theorized and practiced, which has become law in many developed countries. Its theoretical perspective is based on the ideas of white, male, aristocratic Europeans of the nineteenth century (John Ruskin, William Morris, Camillo Boito) and on international charters developed before the 1970s: the Athens Charter (1931) and Venice Charter (1964). Regulatory systems in most developed countries adapted the Venice Charter to laws and rules that prescribed the conservation of built heritage. The primary goal of orthodox heritage theory and practice, which is based on a positivistic paradigm, is to conserve the physical fabric of heritage objects in order to avoid a “false sense of history”. Orthodox practice is defined by “top-down” processes and expert rule.

Positivism: A perspective on the nature of reality and knowledge that is associated with the scientific method, objectivity, quantification, remote observation, and prediction. It assumes that “facts” or truth can exist independently of interpretation. Clifford Geertz famously questioned the ability of positivistic research designs to understand cultural phenomena. He analyzed a wink from a positivistic and constructivist (or post-modern) perspective. In the former case, he described how the timing of a wink could be measured and objectively analyzed, but yet it utterly failed to reveal the real meaning behind a wink. In order to understand the meaning of the wink, the researcher must adopt an emic or inside perspective—the same as the person being studied—and in the process destroy the barrier between researcher and subject. The wink, in fact, conveyed a “thick” set of meanings that a “thin” positivistic research design completely missed.

Social science research methodologies: The rigorous techniques used by social scientists (e.g., anthropologists, sociologists, psychologists, humanistic geographers) to gather, analyze, and interpret data that originates from people in social, cultural, or individual contexts. Data can consist of numbers, which are then analyzed via statistical methods, or meanings, which are analyzed through a process known as “coding” — producing themes or overarching organizational structures from texts, audio, or video.