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14.00  Abandoned Cultural Landscapes and the Problem of Integrity and Authenticity

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One dimension that is often commented on is the tension between authentic conservation and commodification. However, there are also issues around how the “landscape experience” is treated. In this paper we will discuss the difficulty of translating traditional conservation concepts, which we centre on the concept of authenticity and integrity, to the dynamic landscape contexts, and the resulting concerns over their management. 

Part of this is about the conflict between the preservationist ethos of the World Heritage Sites (WHS) designation and attempts by locals to extract or at least secure development. In this sense problems around the WHS designation revolve around fixed ideas of conservation value that dynamic and heterogeneous rural landscapes are the product of layers of development and habitation. So, for example, “the pressure to present heritage locations to commodify them for tourist consumption raises tensions with notions of cultural authenticity.” 

A fundamental issue to be discussed is the management of European Cultural Routes (ECLR) and World Heritage Cultural Routes (WHCR), and whether the hypothesis about the lack of internationally agreed upon set of conservation principles on authenticity and integrity of such spaces should be defined and protected or not. 

Some international declarations (Council of Europe, 1975; UNESCO, 1976; ICOMOS, 1987) echoed the significance of public opinion and support, and the need for works of conservation to be socially progressive. In seeking to conserve an ever-changing environment, in 1994, the need for sites to evolve and experience socio-cultural change was recognized. Strategic work within UNESCO is on-going, incorporating elements such as ruralscapes, cultural pathways, morphologies, functionality, authenticity and integrity, genius loci and intangible values. 

In short, rural landscape management becomes partly about conserving individual structures and artifacts, but also involves “judgments about the spirit of place as a living entity from the past, in the present, and for the future.” Thus, there is a need to embrace change, even when it remains unclear as to how the concepts of integrity and authenticity can assume this dynamic character. 

Bearing in mind the six main criteria to assess the outstanding universal values (OUV) of cultural landscapes, of note is criterion (v), which examines the interaction between man and environment inclusive of traditional human settlement and specific land-use characteristics representative of a culture. In fact, most rural landscapes submitted for WHCR recognition are analyzed against this criterion. 

Considering that rural landscape integrity is a “value to have” based on the level of cultural value continuity and on the level of natural value conservation, previous studies have developed a list of historical and ecological parameters. And given that integrity is a “value to maintain” some socio-economic and management parameters are also seen as important for maintaining integrity. 

The hypothesis outlined at the beginning barely fits in the analyzed contemporary cultural landscapes. Conservation policies are thought to be related with the way each society values and views its roots and traditions. If these policies to educate society are a relatively recent development, these areas run the risk of allowing their values to be gradually taken over by contemporary and external transformations. The general context of this study is Europe, and it focuses particularly on European countries such as France, Spain, Greece, and Italy.

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