2002 | 1 | 1-3
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Ośrodek Dokumentacji Zabytków - instytucja ochrony dziedzictwa narodowego

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The exchange and transformations of man’s material surrounding is a natural phenomenon, but societies wish to simultaneously preserve the fullest possible knowledge about their past. The physical salvaging and conservation of all old buildings or objects exceeds the potential of even the most prosperous countries. Inventories and documentation of cultural heritage remain therefore, the basic conservation undertakings, and in the case of impermanent objects or those not appreciated for their “values”, they remain probably the most essential activity possible. In the form of drawings, photographs or descriptions they make it possible to relay information about non-extant buildings and transformed towns. Considering that certain domains of scientific research, such as archeological excavations conducted by means of traditional methods are an intentional and sanctioned form of destroying select fragments of national legacy, the importance of their thorough documentation is ascribed even greater significance. In the cases of certain cultural property, which by its very nature is transitory and impermanent, such as a concert or a theatrical spectacle, its record does not prolong the existence of the given phenomenon, but merely recalls it. Other forms of artistic activity recognise exclusively the documentation of a given work, as in the case of theatrical spectacles broadcast on television or studio music recordings. It is not the spectacle itself but its record which is protected by copyright, and can be frequently copied on assorted carriers and recreated. The documentation of historical monuments in normal conditions serves as material for scientific studies and research concerning the given monument as well as the foundation for conservation projects. In instances of natural calamities or wartime devastation, such documentation may serve the reconstruction of, at the very least, the outer form of those damaged objects which constitute an essential part of natural heritage. In traditional conservation circles, attached to the “cult of substance”, launched by Ruskin, the conception of documented records conceived as a substitute for the conservation of the very substance of cultural property, produces considerable resistance. The prime task of the Centre for the Documentation of Historical Monuments is to conduct a record of cultural property in Poland, constantly brought up to date and supplemented. The central files encompass all historical and conservation data about mobile and immobile monuments registered in Poland (as long as they are not featured in museums, libraries or archives possessing their own inventories). This is the nature of the objectives of institutions documenting cultural heritage throughout the whole of Europe, and creating information resources which serve the comprehension and interpretation of assorted elements of the cultural landscape of our continent. In order to render comparative opinions or conclusions possible, it is necessary to accept a uniform and generally understood manner of documentary registration. This purpose is served by special systems, such as the so-called Core Data Index, accepted as a European Union recommendation for architectural and construction objects, or the Polish system of registering archeological sites, known as AZP (the Archeological Photograph of Poland). Their joint feature is the fact that the process of filing is entrusted to specialists, and the treatment of knowledge about historical monuments is envisaged as common property. This has been the heretofore praxis in Poland. The registration and documentation of cultural property was entrusted to services dealing with the protection of historical monuments, while a specialised central cultural institution was responsible for the co-ordination of those operations. At its thirteenth session held in Paris in 1964 the UNESCO General Conference recommended that each member state should prepare “a national inventory of cultural p roperty in its territory” (§10), confirming this proposition at its sixteenth session, also organised in Paris (1970) and in the text of the Convention passed at the time (Article 5. b). Additionally, a consecutive (seventeenth) session formulated A recommendation concerning the protection o f national cultural and natural legacy, whose point 13. b declares that: “Member states (...) should establish in their territory specialist services whose tasks (...) would entail predominantly preparing an inventory o f protected heritage and establishing a specialised documentary s e r v i c e points 29 and 30 stated: “Each member state should prepare as soon as possible an inventory o f its cultural and natural legacy, and include into this inventory also property which — albeit without particular value — comprises an inseparable fragment o f the environment to which it belongs”, and “that the outcome o f inventory work (...) should be constantly brought up to date and arranged in suitable order”. The value of all collections and databases, whose gathering required long-term activity consisting of the co-operation of numerous specialists and institutions, depends on the stability of criteria for the selection of information and its recording. Such an approach offers the possibility of comparing particular records and statistical research. All campaigns based on subjective legal-official or political criteria, with changing opinions about “historical features” and the state conservation policy, together with the tendency, natural among p articular recorders of national legacy, towards expanding bases concerning problems of interest to them (often only to them), introduce chaos into the image of cultural legacy. Moreover, it is important to conduct such bases in a holistic manner, encompassing the whole country, and to manage them via a central institution. Although cultural heritage, which is composed of elements introduced by local communities (both in the past and today) is a moral duty of the whole nation, the process of multiplying knowledge about its resources cannot be borne only by particular counties. Contrary to the proclivities of part of the administration or scientists, the gathered information should be accessible to all those interested, in accordance to regulations binding also other public collections. The awareness of all those facts makes it possible to guarantee, not only formally but also for the sake of suitably conceived social interest, the constitutional right of Polish citizens towards their national legacy, and to wish the Centre for the Documentation of Historical Monuments successive decades of undisturbed and useful work. Robert M. Kunkel Vice-Director of the Centre for the Documentation of Historical Monuments
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  • Wicedyrektor Ośrodka Dokumentacji Zabytków
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