Conservation interventions and ways of using material heritage resources are often referred to as being either “appropriate” or not without any explanation of what this actually means. Based on an understanding of material heritage as a social construct defined by the communities who value it, a framework is developed for determining and discussing the appropriate use of material heritage resources. Fundamental to this framework is an understanding of the concept of “acceptable damage”. It is suggested that damage should only be considered in cases where the associated benefits through use outweigh the negative change, thereby preserving or increasing overall “capital”. A model for conceptualising the values of material heritage and the benefits provided through using heritage resources as a form of capital is proposed, which is intended to function within the “Simplified Mechanism for Appropriate Use”. Based on planning structures developed for the management of heritage sites, the mechanism is from the perspective of the conservator operating within the larger sphere of heritage management. It is suggested that heritage management would benefit from involving conservators in determining how heritage resources are used. Both the mechanism and the associated model are intentionally designed to reap the benefits of interdisciplinary management. The proposed framework draws upon the literature developed for the conservation and management of both heritage collections and sites and is intended for use in the management of all categories of heritage. The discussion benefits from a consideration of practical heritage management, featuring a case study of the management of the potential World Heritage Site of Chatham Dockyard and Its Defences; the framework developed is therefore informed both by theory and practice. It is intended to facilitate the informed use of material heritage while encouraging heritage managers to make the value-judgments underlying all use-decisions explicit.
This is the abstract of a dissertation submitted in partial fullfilment of the requirements for the degree of MA in Principles of Conservation, Institute of Archaeology, University College London 2013.