The 1999 amendments to the Australia ICOMOS Burra Charter incorporated the concept of interpretation in conservation, as an essential part of securing the future of heritage places by informing and exciting their constituencies. Interpretation can communicate cultural significance and reflect diverse identities and values. But at times the medium overwhelms the message- just as over-restoration and reconstruction can overwhelm honest evidence and patina.
Internationally, ICOMOS is becoming involved in the development of the Ename Charter- "international guidelines for authenticity, intellectual integrity and sustainable development in the public presentation of archaeological and historical sites and landscapes". This project was begun by an international group of archaeologists and virtual reality experts based in Belgium, initially concerned with scholarly authenticity in new media simulations, which has expanded to include all types of presentation infrastructure and techniques as well as community collaboration, documentation and tourism aspects. Australia ICOMOS is actively contributing to the evolution of the Charter, proposed for adoption by the ICOMOS General Assembly in Beijing in 2005.
In Sydney and elsewhere, local councils increasingly require Interpretation Strategies as part of development consents relating to heritage property. But what is meant by an Interpretation Strategy or Interpretation Plan? At present there are no generally accepted Interpretation Guidelines or standards to develop or assess projects.
The implementation of Public Art polices are often inter-linked with interpretation. Many councils are now also preparing Cultural Plans, creating opportunities to include cultural heritage interpretation as an integral part of any contemporary cultural life.
Australia ICOMOS therefore proposes to hold a two day national conference in November, 2003 in Sydney to explore interpretation issues and discuss and develop a draft Guidelines to the Burra Charter on interpretation. It will also assist in the development of input from Australian members to the evolution of the international ICOMOS Ename Charter on heritage interpretation.
In association with and following the conference, the NSW Heritage Office proposes to hold an invited experts workshop to assist in its development of a more detailed document on Interpretation Guidelines Parallel with the Expert Workshop, stimulating site visits are planned in the Western Sydney area. These will conclude by mid afternoon on the Sunday.