By Dinu Bumbaru, Secretary General of ICOMOS

From Palaeolithic stone-tool cutting sites to the large steel production plants, from the first fields in the Indus valley to the wide Canadian and Argentine prairies with their emblematic, and now threatened, grain silos, production is intimately linked to the activities of human societies. Along with religion, the explanation and understanding of the world, commerce or social life; production – agricultural or industrial – constitutes one of the pillars of the human endeavour of which our heritage is the primary testimony.

The recognition of the heritage of production varies depending on the society and the country. In Canada for example, the Commission on Historic Sites and Monuments recognized the Lachine Canal in Montreal, cradle of Canadian industrialization, as a National Historic Monuments in 1938. Such recognition however did not always guarantee the protection of Industrial monuments and sites. Often unloved and associated with pollution and with memories often heavy with sorrow, this heritage remains deeply threatened. On the one hand, the continuation of its industrial activity forces it to adapt to constantly evolving modes of production. On the other hand, the process of de-industrialization renders these sites obsolete, equally affecting the dependent worker communities. Finally, the conservation of these immense or highly-specialized structures, or of contaminated sites, poses difficult technical challenges that call for the pooling of practical experience and knowledge.

It was therefore necessary to wait for the development of an increased awareness towards this particular type of heritage among legislators, public administrators who apply the law, and of course, among the engineers and in the enterprises who possess and use this heritage. Academic research, the birth of civic associations dedicated to the recognition, protection and appreciation of this heritage, not to mention the waves of factory closures, have largely contributed to this awakening. If Europe, led by the United Kingdom, contributed in launching this movement, many countries have developed diverse experiences in the conservation of these buildings, sites or machines through innovative reuse or through their appropriate transformation into museums to foster an acquaintance with a larger public.

As with other forms of heritage – for example the recent heritage or that associated with dark chapters in the history of a society – the heritage of production does not benefit from an artistic beauty or historic glory that spontaneously evokes emotion. Its primary message is to recount the memory of recent societies, marked by industry, and to bear witness to the ingenuity of human kind, whether artisans or engineers, workers or owners. By suggesting the theme of “The Heritage of Production” for the 2006 International Day for Monuments and Sites, the ICOMOS General Assembly wishes to promote this essential part of the great human venture. The Assembly also requested that ICOMOS, in close collaboration with its partner organisation TICCIH, elaborate guiding principles to encourage and steer the conservation of this heritage, work that will be undertaken in 2006 in order to submit a text to the next Assembly, in 2008 in Canada.

Therefore, I want to wish you a productive International Day for heritage, monuments and sites; and a good 18th of April!

Dinu Bumbaru
Secretary General of ICOMOS


Dernière mise à jour: February 8th 2006 - webmaster@icomos.org