Values in Vain?

Feilden, Riegl, and Mason/de la Torre all discuss the issue of value in historical preservation. Feilden discusses emotional, cultural, and use values of historic buildings, as well as human factors, deterioration and the degree of intervention which is necessary. Riegl likewise also contributes to the theory of values in preservation discussing specifically monuments (or any structure created by man essentially). Finally Mason/de la Torre discuss that values have always been the reason for heritage conservation. They likewise break values down categorically and discuss them. All of these discussions point to the fact that the value of a site or structure is the underlying reason for preserving it. While I am in agreement with the fact that sites and structure do posses specific values, and those values essentially are the best reason we currently have for preservation, the idea of values, to me, begs the question why preserve anything at all? At the chance of be too provocative I must ask, is preservation for the sake of values in vain? It is a fact that one day, weather it be ten years or ten thousand years from now, everything physical we are working to preserve will be gone. So why place value on something that will eventually be destroyed? Obviously I am a proponent of preservation or I would not be involved with it, but this is a question that I cannot help but ask myself on occasion. To me the obvious answer is to preserve human knowledge for as long as possible. That is not to say values theory does not have it’s place within the pursuit of knowledge, but it is a category itself within the overarching theme. Preservation has gotten more complicated because it involves more and more values to apply to the field, whether it be usefulness, aesthetic value, historical value, cultural value, economic value and so on. These values to me fit within the pursuit of preserving human knowledge by preserving historical and cultural buildings, sites, and landscapes. This idea of knowledge is also associated with the concepts of history and memory discussed by Nora and Olick. It can be argued that history is the knowledge of something that has long passed, and it is also essentially memory passed down over generations, while memory is something learned within a persons lifetime that will eventually be history one day. Therefore the two depend on each other and feed the knowledge of mankind. So by the actions of preservation and conservation we are preserving history and memory, thus preserving knowledge.

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