The Nature and Scope of Cultural Heritage Resources Management in South Africa

The Nature and Scope of Cultural Heritage Resources Management in South Africa

Anton C. van Vollenhoven (University of North-West, South Africa)
Copyright: © 2018 |Pages: 32
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-3137-1.ch017


The main aim of this chapter is to provide assistance to institutions and individuals involved in cultural heritage management (for example, contract work), especially entry level. An overview of important aspects to take note of are given and some are discussed in detail. The concept of protection as indicated in the National Heritage Resources Act, the methodology of heritage resources management (also known as CRM), the concept of cultural significance, and the way of dealing with graves are all defined. This is placed in a global perspective by including applicable international conventions related to the protection of heritage. Information on the cultural context within South Africa is given to provide an understanding of possible issues to be dealt with. The result is a reference guide for the management of the cultural heritage of South Africa.
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The creation of infrastructure during development projects is increasingly threatening cultural resources all over the world. It is no different in South Africa. During these development activities, which may include mining, infrastructure development, housing, among others, the cultural heritage resources are affected and are in danger of being destroyed or damaged.

It is, however, not possible to preserve all cultural resources, as it may not be economically viable or because there may be a number of similar heritage sites. It therefore is of the utmost importance that a balance needs to be struck between progress (development) and the conservation of cultural resources.

Cultural heritage resource management, sometimes called cultural resources management (CRM), deals with the minimisation of impact on the fragile heritage. This gave rise to the concept of heritage management, mainly (but not exclusively) dealt with by private heritage practitioners.

The aims of CRM involves inter alia that an economically viable solution is being found where the human (cultural) environment can coexist with modern-day developments. One such option is the possible tourism value that can be derived from properly managed heritage sites.

Before continuing, it is necessary to define a few principal concepts related to heritage management.

  • Culture: The concept of culture has been defined many times before. A basic definition is that it includes everything made by humans (Coertze, 1977). This includes physical objects such as furniture and consumer goods, but also intangible creations such as music, language, and religion (Burden, 2000).

  • Heritage: Heritage refers to the legacy from the past (Meyer, 1995).

  • Conservation: All the processes used to maintain a place or object in order to keep its cultural significance. The process includes preservation, restoration, reconstruction, and adaptation (ICOMOS, 2013).

  • Preservation: This is the action of ensuring that something is not neglected or lost (protection) and includes maintenance of the fabric of such a site in its existing state (ICOMOS, 2013).

  • Restoration: To bring a place or object back as close as possible to a known state, without using any new materials (ICOMOS, 2013).

  • Reconstruction: To bring a place or object as close as possible to a specific known state by using old and new materials (ICOMOS, 2013).

  • Rehabilitation: The repairing and/or changing of a structure without necessarily taking the historical correctness thereof into account (NMC, 1983).

  • Adaptation: Adaptation means changing a place to suit the existing use or a proposed use (ICOMOS, 2013).

  • Heritage Management: The concept of CRM developed in the United States during the 1970s. From here it gradually reached Europe, Britain, Australia, and New Zealand. It later also spread to the African continent where it reached South Africa in the early 1990s (Van Vollenhoven, 1998).

Key Terms in this Chapter

Cultural Significance: The key concept in determining the value of cultural heritage. It consists of five values, namely cultural, social, historic, scientific, and aesthetic significance.

Heritage Management: Heritage management is the application of management techniques to conserve and develop cultural resources so that they remain part of a cultural heritage with long-term value and benefit for the general public.

Cultural Resources: Cultural resources are all unique and nonrenewable intangible (spiritual) and material phenomena (natural or made by humans) that are associated with human (cultural) activities. This includes sites, structures, and artefacts to which an individual or group attaches some value with regard to its historic, archaeological, architectural, spiritual, and human (cultural) development.

Culture: Everything made by humans, including tangibles and intangibles.

Management Plan: A detailed document aimed at the sustainable preservation and utilisation of heritage resources.

Heritage: The legacy of the human past.

Impact Assessment: The determination of the impact of development on cultural resources.

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