Thinking about the Future in Relationship to the Past; Critiquing the Value-Centered Theory

The argument for value theory is quite a draw for myself. The concept allows for each potential aspect of a place or object to hold a weight of importance in order to better inform conservators how best to act upon said place or object.  Its ability to comprehend and unify differing opinions and positions as to the value of a project seems very appropriate and necessary in a world where there are so many moving parts to consider. Sensible, right?  Before one acts , he / she considers all sides of an argument.  However, there remains one aspect of value theory that I take issue with; the fact that potential value or future value is not considered.

The two main values subcategories that Randy Mason discusses in his writings on the topic are heritage values and contemporary values.  However, there is a lack of consciousness that the places we preserve today will have value tomorrow.  It is odd to forget this aspect of value; after all the baseline concept for preservation and conservation of heritage is to make the past useful for future generations.  So what could be future value, what might it include, and is it worth considering i.e. does it hold as much weight as contemporary and heritage values?

Future Value consideration seems prevalent in other fields of study including finance, city planning, business…the list goes on.  The majority of what we do as a human race involves considering the consequences our present day actions might have on tomorrow.  Now, this isn’t to say that the preservation field as a whole never thinks about the future; quite the contrary.  As I mentioned above, the central idea of preservation is to keep aspects of our past around for the future; unfortunately, however, the thoughts tend to end there.  The field needs preservationists who aren’t simply thinking about how important a building was in the past and is in the present, but he / she needs to consider how a building might  be important in the future.  How could the actions you take today on said building affect how society sees it, uses it, or values it tomorrow?  Is turning it into the next big tourist attraction really beneficial to society, or just the investors in the project?  Simultaneously, might a place without much heritage value today, such as the growing Syrian Refugee camps throughout the world, gain contemporary value in the coming years?

Perhaps it is asking too much for preservationists to be able to look into their magic balls and predict the future of heritage sites throughout the lands.  I, for one, believe that through an immense amount of research, collaboration, and some good ol’ fashion intuition, we will be better equipped to preserve for the future by starting to consider it.


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