Economics and Heritage Conservation

Publisher:The Getty Conservation Institute

Research Report – A Meeting Organized by the Getty Conservation Institute, December 1998, Getty Center, Los Angeles

The Economics of Heritage Conservation: A Discussion
Daniel Bluestone, Arjo Klamer, David Throsby, Randall Mason

The Values of Cultural Heritage: Merging Economic and Cultural Appraisals
Arjo Klamer and Peter-Wim Zuidhof

Preface by  Marta de la Torre, April 1999

It is not a new discovery that economics play a large role in our everyday lives—and an ever larger role in the sphere of culture and the arts. The influence of economic and business thinking presents a significant challenge to the heritage conservation field. We are confronted with a daunting array of economic difficulties and obstacles—as well as new worlds of opportunity. Increasingly we find economic considerations taking precedence over cultural, social, political, and aesthetic values when it comes to making decisions about what heritage is to be conserved. Because this trend is occurring the world over with regard to all types of material heritage, and because our decisions about what and how to conserve are strongly influenced by economic considerations, the Getty Conservation Institute (GCI) is pursuing the Economics of Heritage Conservation as an area of research.

This report conveys the results of GCI’s initial meeting on this research topic and highlights some specific areas that will receive further consideration and research. An interdisciplinary and international group of scholars and professionals convened for three days in December 1998 to discuss, in broad terms, the potential for collaboration and conflict when economic and cultural values are brought together. We were successful in identifying specific areas of agreement and disagreement. These will form the basis of an ongoing collaboration among economists, scholars of culture, and conservation professionals as we continue our work on this topic. The aim of our Economics project and other conservation research activities is the cultivation of creative, holistic, multidisciplinary, and even speculative thinking about the future of conservation and its role in society. This type of research is essential if cultural heritage and its conservation are to play a productive role in the society of the next millennium. What is at stake when we speak of the role of heritage in society? As this report goes to print, a dreadful, destructive scenario continues to unfold in southeast Europe. This civil, military, political conflict centres on the strong feelings and social bonds that are rooted in heritage—in issues of land and culture.
These events should be an additional caution to those of us concerned with the fate of heritage. We conserve, interpret, manage, and invest in heritage at our peril if we don’t understand the roles it plays in society—for better and for worse—as a lightning rod for cohesion and conflict.

This report consists of the following sections: an essay describing the background, goals, discussions, and conclusions of the December 1998, meeting (accompanied by quotes, in the right-hand column, excerpted from meeting transcripts); the transcript of a public panel discussion held at the J. Paul Getty Museum as part of the meeting; the text of the background research paper prepared in advance of the meeting; and suggestions for further reading. Thanks go to Professor Arjo Klamer and Peter-Wim Zuidhof for their diligent work in creating the
background paper, and for their collaboration in designing and facilitating the meeting. Thanks are also extended to our colleagues from around the world as well as those from the Getty who took part in the December meeting.
I encourage you to join with us in this research, make these questions your own, and contact us with your thoughts and ideas on these topics.

Conference organizers: Marta de la Torre, Randy Mason
Consultant: Arjo Klamer
Conference logistics coordinator: Sheri Saperstein
Report editor: Randy Mason
Design/Production coordinator: Helen Mauchí
Copy editor: Sylvia Tidwell
Copyright ©1999 The J. Paul Getty Trust

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