The Burra Charter

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How to cite. This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access. Australia Icomos. Marquis-Kyle, P. The illustrated Burra Charter: making good decisions about the care of important places.

Google Scholar. Truscott, M. Conservation and Management of Archaeological Sites 4 2 : — Architects and planners, politicians, unions and resident groups formed alliances to re-shape how places were designed, planned and protected.

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Putting Australian community aspirations around heritage into practice required distinctive approaches to conservation. A budding generation of heritage practitioners , their ranks often drawn from the heritage movement, first looked overseas for inspiration. The European Venice Charter was the universal benchmark for the conservation of historic buildings and monuments across the world.


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It worked for the great monuments of stone like the temples, cathedrals and palaces of Europe but was less applicable to Australian heritage concerns. The heritage focus included urban precincts, industrial and vernacular buildings, regional towns, Indigenous heritage, colonial-era construction technologies, and objects such as shipwrecks.

Similar debates about the nature of heritage were being had across the world in the s—80s. They embraced an expanded appreciation of historic environments, sometimes even playfully: Burra in South Australia, an Antipodean pastoral town with a gruff name, was deliberately chosen to ratify the charter because it was seen as everything that the genteel European renaissance city of Venice was not. The analytical conservation model contained within the Burra Charter was original.

It proposed a systematic approach to heritage management, providing the flexibility to identify, assess and safeguard a range of heritage things and places.

Burra Charter

Before any decisions about the future of a place were to be made, it needed to be understood along five specific lines of cultural heritage significance the values-based approach : aesthetic, historical, social, scientific and, later, spiritual. The Burra Charter has had a longer shelf life than most heritage declarations and recommendations.


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From the outset, it had an army of motivated Australia ICOMOS advocates within the rapidly growing heritage profession to advocate for its use. They wanted and now had an agreed set of appropriate and robust Australian heritage standards. Burra Charter principles have been adopted across the world.

Australian Centre for Architectural History, Urban and Cultural Heritage

Because it worked for a variety of places, historians have characterised the Burra Charter as a significant postmodern challenge to the dominant conception of conservation values. Although an interpretation of the Venice Charter, it has been perceived by traditionalists as an attack on authoritative European conservation principles. The Burra Charter is a product of the s and s.

The Burra Charter turns 40

It addresses the conservation priorities and community expectations of that time. Although the Burra Charter has been reviewed — for instance, to more appropriately address Indigenous heritage and explicate heritage significance as something that changes over time — its origins will always be in European conservation thought. It assumes heritage can be adequately registered along five lines of significance and, although recognising social and aesthetic values, still gives precedence to tangible and physical forms over meanings and associations.

Whether its analytical model and associated mode of expertise is suitable for the future is increasingly being brought into question. At forty, the Burra Charter has to operate as part of a broader suite of conservation approaches, particularly in cities. This will include having to consider the impacts of climate change , for monuments and built structure as well as living places such as gardens.

The original Burra Charter authors were trailblazers for their time. To be responsive to the future, heritage practice must continue to address our changing sensibilities and shifting cultural values. This article is based on remarks Dr James Lesh made as a member of the panel at the event held at University of Melbourne School of Design on 27 June

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