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ASCHB – “Why I Hate Statements of Significance” with Kate Clark

2 March - 18:00 - 19:30

Kate Clark returns to ASCHB to speak on ‘values’ and to question whether historic building “significance” has become something to be defined at the point of designation set out in a tick-box Statement of Significance, rather than something that emerges from an inclusive and engaged understanding of place.

“It is nearly 25 years since I last talked to ASCHB about significance and values. In the late 90s I was working at English Heritage – I had just done the conservation management plan for Whitby and in the run up to Power of Place (2000) we were all grappling with new more inclusive approaches to conservation, putting values and human factors at the heart of decision-making. There was an ongoing battle with the RCHME and the HB Inspectors over whether recording was something you did to inform decision making or after the decision was made, and several of us were trying to get ideas about significance and value into the UK heritage lexicon.

A quarter of a century later, I think they might have won. It seems – from the outside at least – that significance is now something to be defined at the point of designation, or set out in tick box Statements of Significance, based on a list of four values. It is not something that emerges from an inclusive and engaged understanding of place, and then goes on to be part of the negotiation of values between the present and the future – the private and the public. Top down, vs bottom up.

In this talk we will look at how values are only one part of a process of decision-making and why writing statements of significance out of context is not helpful to clients or decision makers. I hope I am wrong, but it feels as if our attempts to create a more inclusive, values-based approach to conservation have been firmly put back in the box.”

Kate Clark began her career as an industrial archaeologist with Ironbridge Gorge Museums in the late 80s before joining English Heritage as an Inspector of Ancient Monuments in 1993. She later worked with the Heritage Lottery Fund dealing with policy, research and evaluation, as Director of Sydney Living Museums and CEO of Cadw, and in other policy roles. Her latest book ‘Playing with the Past’ contains around 80 activities and games to help people think about the value of heritage.

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