2008 | 2 | 55-82
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The intention of this article is to assess the state of the register of historical monuments, the role it plays in the domestic system of the protection of the cultural heritage as well as its character and representative nature. Should it be regarded as an important protection instrument, is it shaped in a planned manner, what sort of forms does it assume, and are they an effective element of the protection system? The present-day condition of the register of monuments is the outcome of a more than 90-years long process that essentially affected its shape. The reasons for the current problems tackled by the national system of the protection of monuments should be sought in the history of the formation of this most important tool applied by conservation protection. The Polish register of historical monuments dates back to a decree issued by the Regency Council in 1918. The necessity of differentiating the collection by means of a scientific assessment of its value and the application of a classification of the monuments was noticed soon afterwards. Although work on a complete inventory of monuments, interrupted by the war cataclysm, was never finished, conservation legislation from the interwar period, especially concerning the creation of a register of monuments, should be regarded as a modern and complex treatment of assorted questions relating to protection. The conservation views that assumed shape the 1930s and the conceptions of the creation and valorisation of an inventory of monuments were never developed during the post-war period. The introduction of a classification of immovable monuments was not finalised until 1964 and the preparation and publication of a complete list of the monuments of architecture and construction, divided into five categories. In the face of numerous later negative experiences and critical opinions stemming from daily praxis and, primarily, the destruction of a significant number of monuments from the lower groups, it would be difficult to find any arguments in favour of the categorisation launched at the time. Let us note, however, that it was carried it in a totally different political system and that the assumed objectives were quite dissimilar from the attained effect. In time, the absence of a firm coordination, including administrative, of the activity pursued by the voivodeship conservators of historical monuments upon a central level, i,e. the General Conservator of Historical Monuments, with the exception of the State Service for the Protection of Historical Monuments in 1991-1996, produced a further discernible erosion of uniform principles for classifying monuments for the register, and furthered the differences and divisions within the range of the already existing resources. Meanwhile, the register of historical monuments is one of the statutory forms of protection, and daily praxis confirms that an unregistered object is deprived of all chances for effective conservation protection or for benefitting from financial aid provided by public funds. In this way, the register plays the role of the most important and, as daily activity demonstrates, in many cases the sole instrument for shaping the conservation policy. Within this context special relevance is assumed by its contents, measured not with the number of the registered objects and regional statistics, or even the correctness of administrative documents, but with the contents and representativeness of a collection assessed from the vantage point of the dimension of the cultural heritage of the whole country. The extensive Polish cultural heritage resource protected by law is composed of several collections of immovable, movable and archaeological monuments. In the presence of an almost universal general definition of historical value, formulated in administrative decisions, effective protection is significantly restricted; this factor too hinders a definition of the range and character of the planned conservation undertakings and the financing of the protection of historical monuments. In practical terms, such a state of things gives rise to a number of potential conflicts between owners and conservation offices, and favours the relativism of the assessments of historical values and the principles of conservation activity, rendered dependent upon current pragmatic needs and investment pressure; it also hampers the propagation of knowledge about the actual resources of the protected heritage. Finally, it limits the possibility of winning allies involved in protection ventures. Despite the ostensibly considerable number of monuments listed in the register of immovable monuments, the content of this collection is far from complete. The elementary criteria of historical, scientific or artistic evaluation, determined by a general statutory definition and not modified for decades, are applied in totally arbitrary manner. As a result, numerous valuable monuments with distinctive historical values still remain outside the range of legal protection, while conservation is encompassing a growing number of examples of contemporary architecture. The great differentiation of the register of monuments can be perceived upon the basis of just several select instances. Its range also contains a number of inner divisions whose justification poses a difficult task. Alongside monuments possessing supreme values that do not require any validation, we come across buildings with highly doubtful features, at times giving rise to warranted reservations concerning the presence of even elementary cultural values. The register, a theoretically uniform collection of administrative decisions devoid of divisions into categories, remained unaltered, thus forcing the conservation services to treat equally all the components of this, after all, by no means uniform collection. The possibilities of an actual impact of the voivodeship conservators of monuments upon the contents of the register, in other words, the establishment of areas and objects to be subjected to legal conservation protection, are becoming more limited. It is also impossible to perceive features indicating an actual and well-conceived influence of the voivodeship conservator of monuments upon the ultimate contents of the register. Owing to a profound crisis of spatial planning and the absence of effective instruments shaping the landscape, the register has become the most prominent form of treating the cultural environment. Its representative nature should correspond to the richness and diversity of the Polish heritage. Imperfections and errors weaken the effectiveness of the whole national system of the protection of monuments. Due to the dynamic development of studies dealing with cultural heritage, the progress of scientific theories, and the almost total disappearance of the time barrier, which used to be one of the most important criteria for delineating historical value, the very concept of the object of the conservation protection is becoming increasingly capacious. True, the number of monuments listed in the register is constantly growing, but the needs are so considerable that the attainment of a state that would fully reflect the historical resources is becoming part of a distant future. Meanwhile, the lack of cohesive criteria for assessing values, whose outcome is the non-existence of a hierarchy of the monuments, makes it difficult to establish protection standards. Different ways of solving this problem should be sought in more profound reflections about the current state, function and directions of indispensable legislation changes concerning the register of monuments, with one of the key issues being a precise and, at the same time, modern definition of the object of protection. The principles and role of the register in the Polish system of the protection of monuments must be perceived in a way different from the applied one. The philosophy of transformations has to be based on a determined conviction that we are dealing with resources differentiated as regards their contents. A suitable solution would be to seek an alternative organisation of conservation administration, together with a conception of an intentional sharing of responsibility for the fate of the recorded monuments by the government administration and local self-governments. The favourable effects of the merely outlined but necessary directions of activity will involve the introduction of order into the register, the amassment of numerous scattered entries into a single cohesive register of information about historical resources, and the creation of a collection of the most valuable national heritage monuments. The ensuing outcome will make it possible to conceive of a uniform state policy in reference to monuments representing assorted values within a wide range of research and documentation, to define forms of protection, and to finance conservation undertaking, promotion and effective administration.
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  • dr inż. arch., absolwent Wydziału Architektury Politechniki Gdańskiej, od 1976 r. związany zawodowo z tą uczelnią, ostatnio na stanowisku adiunkta. Absolwent Podyplomowego Studium Badań Zabytków Architektury na Wydziale Architektury Politechniki Warszawskiej. Badacz i konserwator zabytków architektury, autor wielu zrealizowanych projektów konserwatorskich, a także kilkudziesięciu opracowań studialnych, prac badawczych oraz publikacji krajowych i zagranicznych. W latach 1991-2003 był wojewódzkim konserwatorem zabytków w Gdańsku. Od 2007 r. jest dyrektorem Krajowego Ośrodka Badań i Dokumentacji Zabytków.,
  • Marcin Gawlicki, Krajowy Osrodek Badan i Dokumentacji Zabytków, ul. Szwolezerów 9, 00-464 Warszawa, Poland;
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