Some ethics to ponder in Conservation of Monuments and Sites
By Kshetrimayum Kamaljit Singh
Conservation Research Scholar, National Museum Institute, Janpath
It is no doubt that Manipur is one of the most diverse and rich in cultural heritage. The intangible heritage like dance (Rasleela, Thoibi dance, etc.), music (Nata Sankirtan), folklores and literatures (puya wari, cheitharol kumbaba), sports (Polo, Yubi Lakpi) and tangible heritage as in beautiful sites (Loktak, Dzuko valley, etc.), monuments (Kangla fort, Langthabal fort, etc.) and also in craftsmanship’s of textiles, cane and bamboo objects, etc.
And it is the duty of people to take care of these cultural heritage because it:
– Conveys diverse messages and values that contribute to give a meaning to people’s life.
– Represents the identity of our social group.
– Is unique and irreplaceable.
– Is a source of economic development.
– Represents a vehicle for understanding the diversity of people and developing a policy for peace and mutual comprehension.
Like the restoration works of Kangla fort and the recent finds of geometrical shapes in Maklang and other sites recognized by ASI- Kanchipur (1991-92), Kangkhui (1968-69), and Sekta (1994-95), these are all our important heritage that should be protected not by government authorities only but also by the local populations.
Now according to Conservation-Restoration ethics, there are some important points that should be considered, which the general populations should also be aware of it, like when the questions arise-
Should old buildings look old?
Should they be restored to a condition where they look as if they could have been put up yesterday?
In the IInd International Congress of Architects and Technicians of Historic Monuments, Venice, 1964, as adopted by ICOMOS in 1965- “The concept of a historic monument embraces not only the single architectural work but also the urban or rural setting in which is found the evidence of a particular civilization, a significant development or a historic event. This applies not only to great works of art but also to more modest works of the past which have acquired cultural significance with the passing of time.” [Article 1]
Conservation – “The conservation of monuments is always facilitated by making use of them for some socially useful purpose. Such use is therefore desirable but it must not change the lay-out or decoration of the building. It is within these limits only that modifications demanded by a change of function should be envisaged and may be permitted.” [Article 5]
“The conservation of a monument implies preserving a setting which is not out of scale. Wherever the traditional setting exists, it must be kept. No new construction, demolition or modification which would alter the relations of mass and colour must be allowed.” [Article 6]
Restoration – “The process of restoration is a highly specialized operation. Its aim is to preserve and reveal the aesthetic and historic value of the monument and is based on respect for original material and authentic documents. It must stop at the point where conjecture begins, and in this case moreover any extra work which is indispensable must be distinct from the architectural composition and must bear a contemporary stamp. The restoration in any case must be preceded and followed by an archaeological and historical study of the monument.” [Article 9]
“Additions cannot be allowed except in so far as they do not detract from the interesting parts of the building, its traditional setting, the balance of its composition and its relation with its surroundings.” [Article 13]
So we should know the values and importance of our cultural heritage that has been passed down through ages, we should respect, protect and preserved them before it’s too late and we lost our historical identities. Public should also take part and collaborate with the government or local authorities discussing how to protect and preserved them for the future generations. As it is also our duty and not for the government authorities only, public should know that their role in protecting the heritage is as much important as any government bodies.