Context 140 - July 2015

30 C O N T E X T 1 4 0 : J U LY 2 0 1 5 MÁIRÉAD NIC CRAITH and ULLRICH KOCKEL Tangible and intangible heritage In Northern Ireland conservationists face the difficult question of how to deal with the cultural values of buildings that have the potential to divide rather than unite people. ‘If buildings could talk, some of them would sound like Shakespeare.’ So wrote the German filmmaker, Wim Wenders, who inspired the 2014 celebration of genius loci with his project ‘Cathedrals of Culture’.1 Wenders invited six film directors to explore the ‘souls’ of their favourite buildings in three dimensions. They chose the Berlin Philharmonic, the National Library of Russia, Halden Prison (Denmark), the Salk Institute (California), the Oslo Opera House, and the Centre Georges Pompidou.2 The project considered what buildings would say if they could speak to us. In these documentaries the buildings themselves are personified and given a human voice. The Centre Pompidou wakes in the hour just before dawn. The building tells us: ‘It’s precious time to myself, time for some solitude before the crowds come.’ The Berlin Philharmonic speaks as a ‘human’ building that was born in 1963 and witnessed many changes in Germany. She is now over 50 years old now and is grateful for the flowers. This venture reflects changing perceptions of the historic environment in recent decades. Initially herit- age was defined in terms of the built environment. UNESCO’s 1972 convention concerning the Protection of theWorld Cultural and Natural Heritage is framed primarily in terms of the tangible.3 This is reflected in a world heritage list that has been dominated by castles, cathedrals, grand manors and iconic architecture – although this does not apply to Northern Ireland, whose only world heritage site, the Giant’s Causeway and Causeway Coast, is natural rather than architectural. However, the region contains wonderful castles and special architecture such as Dunluce or Carrickfergus castles, and the Guildhall in Derry~Londonderry (see page 12). The 1999 Burra Charter 4 and UNESCO’s subse- quent Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage (2003)5 were two strong incentives for the growing recognition of the significance of living heritage, technically called intangible cultural heritage (ICH). Northern Ireland has a rich tradition of diverse rituals, parades, stories, songs and languages that all constitute ICH. For those involved with the built environment, traditional building skills are one of the more significant and treasured elements of ICH.These include thatching, stone masonry, ironmongery, joinery, plasterwork, glazing and tiling. However, the UK has not yet signed up to the relevant UNESCO Charter, thereby curtailing the opportunity to lead the field internationally in this regard. However valuable the concept of ICH, we feel it ill advised to separate these two elements and progress along separate trajectories for material and non-material heritage. Instead, policy should emphasise the holistic nature of heritage, protecting the intangible along with the tangible wherever possible. Advocating a holistic approach to heritage is not new. It was reinforced by the Declaration of the Kimberley Workshop on the Intangible Heritage of Monuments and Sites in 2004. The declaration recognised in its preamble ‘the indivisible nature of tangible and intangible heritage’. It made a case that ‘intangible heritage gives meanings, values and context to objects and places.The individual elements cannot be separated, they are inextricably linked.’6 Parades in Northern Ireland are awash with material culture – with uniforms, emblems, flags and music. The built environment also has a strong intangible References 1WWenders, M Glawogger, M Madsen, R Redford, M Olin, and K Aïnouz (dirs) Cathedrals of Culture, 165 mins, (London: Metrodome, 2014). See the Cathedrals of Culture website, at http:// kathedralenderkultur- (accessed May 14, 2014) 2 For further details see Máiréad Nic Craith and Ullrich Kockel (2015) Re(building) heritage: Integrating Tangible and Intangible inWilliam Logan, Máiréad Nic Craith and Ullrich Kockel (eds) A Companion to Heritage Studies , Blackwell, forthcoming 3 Convention Concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage (World Heritage Convention) (UNESCO, 1972) 4 Australia ICOMOS Charter for Places of Cultural Significance (Burra Charter) (Australia ICOMOS, 1979, revised 1999) 5 Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage (Intangible Cultural Heritage Convention) (UNESCO, 2003) 6 ICOMOS (2004) Declaration of the KimberleyWorkshop on the Intangible Heritage of Monuments and Sites, http://www. international.icomos. org/victoriafalls2003/ kimberley.pdf (accessed May 14, 2014) Conway Mill in west Belfast, now a multi- functional community and work space