Simon Jenkins wrote an article in Good Friday's Guardian
in which he made the case that 'the dazzling walls of medieval England deserve a bold restorer'. It's good to see conservation getting coverage. As discussion of identity intensifies, culture and heritage are increasingly being looked to as sources for that identity, and points around which we can commune
. However, what is often forgotten in this debate is that much of that culture and heritage exists only because it is cared for and that care, in itself, has symbolic value. Care for our past can be undertaken at a number of levels, from items of national importance and similarly grand complexity, like the Mary Rose
, to the more personal decisions we take not to leave a treasured photograph in the sunshine or not to put a valued ornament in a vulnerable position. Each of these is a point on the same spectrum that relates to the care - and value - of the material world around us.
The ultimate point of Simon Jenkins' article is that conservation provides us with means to reassess the past and approach aspects of our history anew. While he focuses on medieval wall-painting, he might just have easily have written about the National Trust's conservation of the Maori meeting house at Clandon
, in which members of the Maori community worked with conservators to ensure that the project reflected their concerns, and that - as a focus for the UK Maori community - the symbolism of caring for the meeting house is observed and its meaning presented to others.
As we continue our work on the sector
, this is a theme we will develop. Conservation has much to offer, not simply in playing an integral role in the heritage sector, but also in providing the means to engage communities in caring for the world around them.