Final report

Saouma-Forero, Galia,
Expert Meeting on Authenticity and Integrity in an African Context; Great Zimbabwe, Zimbabwe; 2000

Authenticity and Integrity

Summary of ICCROM Position Paper, Amsterdam 1998

Jukka Jokilehto in collaboration with Joseph King (02 February 2000)

1. Integrated Strategic Process

The World Heritage Convention identifies as the duty of the States Parties to ensure the identification, protection, conservation, presentation and transmission to future generations of the cultural and natural heritage of outstanding universal value. The Convention also proposes the establishment of a system of international co-operation and assistance designed to support States Parties to the Convention in their efforts to conserve and identify that heritage. (art. 7) Within the World Heritage framework, the initiatives to accomplish these tasks can be referred to the ‘Global Strategy’, devised to ensure the representativity of the World Heritage List, as well as to technical co-operation, training, and raising of awareness. These tasks can be comprised in three distinct phases of a process: 1) identification of heritage resources, i.e., the present ‘Global Strategy’, 2) evaluation in view of nomination to the World Heritage List, and 3) conservation management of World Heritage Sites. The scope of this Integrated Strategic Process is to ensure that the World’s Heritage List reflects the diversity of past and living cultures and to develop a coherent system of international co-operation and assistance to support States Parties to the Convention in their efforts to conserve that heritage. Such an integrated process would facilitate the development of coherent approaches regarding the different phases, promote forward planning, and relate the phases of identification and nomination with conservation management with due regard of the specificity of each heritage resource and its cultural and physical context.

2. Test of Authenticity versus Condition of Integrity

The demand to pass the test of being authentic can be understood as the requirement to be genuine, i.e., the nominated resource should be truly what it is claimed to be. As identified in the Nara Document, this aspect of "genuineness" could have many parameters including, "form and design, materials and substance, use and function, traditions and techniques, location and setting, spirit and feeling, and other internal and external factors." Taking a look at the six cultural heritage criteria of the World Heritage Convention, three types of notions can be seen to be represented, each with its specific test for authenticity within the above mentioned parameters:

  1. criterion (i) refers to human creative genius; meeting the test of authenticity means that the proposed resource has the quality of human creativity, i.e., the work is genuine and stands on its own merits.
  2. the criteria (iii), (iv) and (v) refer to a testimony or representative example; the test of authenticity would consist of a verification that what is proposed is a true representation of the cultural tradition indicated, or a legitimate example of the building type or land-use.
  3. the criteria (ii) and (vi) refer to interchange of values or association of ideas; the test of authenticity should verify that the interchange of values has indeed taken place, or that the events or ideas are really associated with the site in question.

The purpose of the Nara Document was to explore the meaning and applicability of the concept of authenticity in different cultures; it gave due emphasis on the diversity and specificity of heritage resources, as well as to the diversity of values associated with them. It recognised that our ability to understand such values depends on the degree to which information sources about these values may be understood as credible or truthful, thus forming the ‘basis for assessing all aspects of authenticity’. While it was noted that the word ‘authentic’ had not been necessarily used in all languages, it was recognised that the concept itself, of being true or genuine, and therefore authentic, did exist. It follows, then, that the tradition of ritual rebuilding of religious shrines would not be excluded from the concept in as far as the values on which this is based are genuine cultural values, and the reconstruction is not conceived purely as part of site presentation to visitors. This would also be true in continuing traditional cultures in which a constant process of maintenance, repair, and rebuilding takes place in accordance with traditional forms, methods of construction and craftsmanship, materials, and other parameters.

Five years after Nara, with sufficient time for its principles to be discussed and debated, the Nara Document was recently (1999) adopted by ICOMOS, representing a general acceptance of its tenets by the global community of conservation professionals. The Nara conference has also generated a wider dialog on the concept of authenticity within the differing regional contexts. The present meeting in Zimbabwe is one example of this continued dialog, and represents a means of refinement of principles to meet the broad diversity of cultural traditions and values.

The difference between cultural and natural heritage is essentially in the values associated with them. Even though cultural heritage resources can be classified according to type or function, each individual site would still be qualified for its specificity and uniqueness, its genius loci. Particularly when a work is identified as a result of human creative genius, it acquires uniqueness and does not necessarily fit any particular class or category. In the case of natural heritage, emphasis is often given to what a particular type of site should normally contain in relation to its character or relevant ecosystem in order to fulfil the conditions of integrity. This would generally not be the case in cultural heritage due to its specificity.

The general meaning of the word ‘integrity’ refers to material wholeness, completeness, and unimpaired condition. In the case of natural heritage, the ‘condition of integrity’ would refer to an organic or functional whole. In the case of cultural heritage, this can lead to contradictions in the presentation of ancient architectural remains in fragmentary condition. However, the notion will be useful for conservation management purposes, once the heritage resource and its qualities have been defined. This is particularly the case with historic settlements and cultural landscapes, which often have strong historical integrity and where the notion of functional integrity would relate single elements (buildings, squares, gardens) with the system of infrastructures and functions as these evolve over time.

3. The Notion of ‘Outstanding Universal Value’

The individual components of the World’s Heritage are characterised by their specificity and diversity, reflecting the values of each culture and region. The concept of ‘universal value’ refers to genuine/authentic examples of the heritage of different cultures as component part of the universal heritage of humankind. The definition of the ‘outstanding universal value’ of a particular heritage site should thus be based on a critical, comparative study that takes into account the cultural phenomenon concerned. Considering the complexity and diversity of heritage in different cultures, there is great variety of sources of information to be taken into account. The definition of authenticity thus has to be judged on the basis of a critical evaluation of each site, taking into account its specificity and the relevant parameters.

4. Conclusion

Within the framework of the World Heritage Convention, safeguarding the cultural and natural heritage of outstanding universal value would best be achieved by co-ordinating the different activities within an Integrated Strategic Process. The notion of authenticity, as it is currently continuing to develop, is an essential qualifying factor and a fundamental part of the modern conservation of cultural heritage. This concept can be complemented with the notion of integrity, especially when dealing with historic urban and rural settlements or heritage landscapes. By developing these qualifying factors in ways that takes into the plurality of values and cultural diversity, we will be better able to ensure a more balanced representation of sites on the World Heritage List.

General documents

1993, 6-11 December, 17th Session of the World Heritage Committee

1994, 12-17 December, 18th Session of the World Heritage Committee

1994, 12-17 December, 18th Session of the World Heritage Committee

1994, 12-17 December, 18th Session of the World Heritage Committee

1994, 12-17 December, 18th Session of the World Heritage Committee

1996, 20-30 November, 20th Session of the Bureau of the World Heritage Committee

1998, 30 November – 5 December, 22nd Session of the World Heritage Committee

1999, 5-10 July, 23rd Session of the Bureau of the World Heritage Committee

1999, 30 November–5 December, 23rd Session of the Bureau of the World Heritage Committee

General Bibliography

1994, 1-6 November, Nara, Japan [Agency for cultural Affairs, 1995 - ISBN 82-519-1416-7]

  • Nara Conference on Authenticity in relation to the World Heritage Convention. Edited by Knut Einar Larsen. Published by TAPIR PUBLISHERS, N-7005 Trondheim, Norway
  • Conférence de Nara sur l'authenticité dans le cadre de la Convention du Patrimoine Mondial. Rédacteur: Knut Einar Larsen. Publié par TAPIR PUBLISHERS, N-7005 Trondheim, Norway

1994, 31 January – 2 February, Bergen, Norway [1994 – ISBN: 82-519-1445-0]

  • "Conference on Authenticity in Relation to the World Heritage Convention", Preparatory Workshop. Edited by Knut Larsen and Nils Marstein. Published by The Norwegian Directorate of Cultural Heritage.

1996, 27-30 March, San Antonio, Texas [1999 – ISBN: 0-911697-08-X]

  • "Introduction to the Concept of Authenticity" (pp. 9-15), Christina Cameron, Canada, in: Proceedings of the Interamerican Symposium on Authenticity in the Conservation and Management of the Cultural Heritage of the Americas. Published by GCI, US/ICOMOS GCI, US/ICOMOS

1998, 25-29 March, Amsterdam, The Netherlands [not available]

  • Linking Nature and Culture - Report of the Global Strategy Natural and Cultural Heritage Expert Meeting. Bernd von Droste, Mechtild Rossler and Sarah Titchen Ed. Published by the Netherlands Ministry for Education, Culture and Science. Directory for Cultural Heritage, The Netherlands, 1998