Heritage in crisis (K. Pomian, 2014)

Pomian’s thoughts, although framed in the context of the argument for the inter-marrying of digitisation and material continuity in preservation, speak to the fundamental motivation for maintaining tangible links to cultural heritage.

To talk about cultural heritage is to talk about the future.

People tried to leave what they believe to be the most precious for the the future…Heritage was not a problem. It was something obvious. Conservation, restoration, surveillance and protection processes [etc…] only constituted a specific corpus when it had to do with…the rupture between antiquity and modernity…to lift the latter to the same height as the former…shaping the future of arts and letters using an example from the past.

[There is a] debate between those that believe that the future can only be better than the present if it contains certain features of the medieval past that may vary depending on the case and those that believe in a future devoid of any precedence.

…for the first time since the beginning of modern times, we no longer have intellectually convincing and emotionally motivating representations of the future…a future which is better than the present is unthinkable and unimaginable…a future characterized by climate disasters, conflicts related to religious fanaticism, a decline in the standard of living and backward mentalities.

All this has a direct impact on attitudes concerning heritage…of what good would it be to leave heritage to a future that may see no use in what is being conveyed?

[The fundamental presupposition is] the recognition of a link between the benefits of cultural heritage and the ability to invent, innovate, and react in a creative and effective way to challenges wherever they may arise.

This means that if we want to preserve the conditions of creativity and the ability to overcome the unprecedented challenges waiting us, we need a cultural environment that is the product of a long-term intrinsically diversified sedimentation and distinct contributions of several individual and collective authors and not one that is the product of a single generation or a single nation — an environment that is nothing other than heritage and bears the marks of its historicity.

Pomian, K. (2014). Heritage in Crisis. In: Saou-Dufrene, B. (ed), Heritage in the Age of Digital Humanities: How Should Training Practices Evolve?. Münster : LIT Verlag, pp. 29–37. Full text available at: http://books.google.ca/books?id=GL4vBQAAQBAJ

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