Contributions to the AICCM National Conference 2013, Adelaide 23-25 October
Conservation is best understood in intergenerational time frames. As conservators we no doubt have one foot in the past, seeking to understand past states and past intent that have shaped the artefacts upon which we work. However we also have one foot firmly in the future – a future that we design through a process of managing the physical, environmental, social and cultural aspects of the artefacts upon which we work.
Interestingly, as a profession we have and continue to populate the future with the artefacts that we are preserving in the present but we are yet to develop an effective language around ideas of the future. What is a future state? For many it is inconceivable territory akin to looking into a snow storm with headlights. For others it is simply a projection of the present. Where the alternative futures of our cultural heritage and conservation can be imagined, they are commonly defined by new technologies and material innovation or else mediated broader social and cultural themes.
The aim of the paper is to present a model for conservators to understand how they engage with time using the futures technique of Causal Layered Analysis (CLA). This methodology assumes four levels of knowing or conceiving of conservation practice: litany, system, worldview and myth. By identifying the levels at which conservation practice is enacted and how these levels are active across different temporal scales (short, medium and long-term timescales) we are better equipped to frame and explain the work we do with a narrative that is rich with depth and complexity and a long-term forward focus.
Keywords: role of conservation, futures methodology, worldviews, discipline, change over time