Τετάρτη 4 Ιουνίου 2014

Historic memory

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  • Eugenia Bitsani

Historic memory, cultural heritage: a vehicle of collective identity. A bridge between the past and the future.
“the past is only the prologue, the preface” Shakespeare

According to article 1 of the law 2039/1992, “Ratification of the treaty for the protection of the architectural heritage of Europe,” the term “ architectural heritage” refers to the following: Monuments, which means every construction considered especially important due to historical, architectural, artistic, scientific, social or technical interest. It also includes facilities or decorative elements that are integral parts of these particular plants and facilities. Also refers to architectural conglomerations that are either urban or rural constructions, similar to each other so that they form a kind of unity that shall be bounded typographically.  In addition, to the places that are regarded as complex works created by both man and nature, partly built so that they are stretches of land vastly distinct and homogeneous. They basically resemble monuments or aggregates.
They illustrate examples of social life in the past, while the modern surroundings of these places are mere continuations of that life.
The preservation and maintenance of these buildings is not just a monumental act but it also contributes to the shaping of stimulants that will facilitate us in our effort to perceive history’s course and the continuation of a certain place.
Additionally, it helps us to connect to a particular area, giving one a real sense of belonging as well as a substantial identity.
Maurice Halbwachs was the first to coin the term collective memory, citing that ‘memory is not just restricted to reminiscing about and recalling the past, but it also includes a network of external to the individual relations, patterns and objects that support, objectify and embody the past. According to Halbwachs the members of a social group are those who remember. It is apparent that the eminent Marxist historian refers to something that is rather obvious: to the fact that historical knowledge and generally historical culture and cultural heritage which is an aggregate of knowledge, notions, attitudes, perceptions, practices, invented traditions and stereotypes all make up ones identity, giving meaning to people’s way of life. The three steps of time which happens to be historicized is also linked to identity.
They tend to be historic constructions, conflicting readings not just among the creators and vehicles of the dominant ideology, but also among the organized collective subjects which make up the civil society.
Collective memory is metaphorically a construction. Its formation and establishment is in need of a specific means. Antiquity, (monuments, architecture, material cultures have the ability to convey meanings and to symbolize things, by having the advantage of an image that is easily printed on the human mind.
Monuments as constructions made by man in a certain place constitute collective representations, aiming to shape collective memory. They encapsulate a narrative place that combines the “indirect” speech of history with the “direct” speech of memory and they survive materialistically and intellectually in time and space. 16
Therefore, monuments play a pivotal role in the process of creating fixed moral values: they mark the area with a permanent durable trace, which constitutes the foundation of memory and historical cohesion of specific places. 17
In practice, the institutionalizing of monuments, or the protection of architectural works states man’s intention to preserve something in time and space and therefore in his memory. Besides, the word monument etymologically refers to memory while from a semantic point of view; it refers to the process of stimulating the mind. 18
Ancient monuments and historic buildings, monuments of past times constitute a defining feature of the city, bearing the history of a place and its residents.
So the city is the place that records the collective memory of the people.
“Collective memory constitutes one of the most vital elements, which contribute to reforming a city, functioning of course within the frameworks of society. Memory becomes the thread that permeates the whole of the complex structure of the city,” cites Aldo Rossi.
The monument and its uses, facilitates social needs that are connected with the identity of the people and the perpetuation of important events.  Our research approach consists in dealing with the “monuments” of the past, on the one hand as materialistic evidence of a certain era while on the other hand as a potential sphere of activity and as ‘omen subjects’ that participate in the historical procedure, that constitutes the various and disparate social and cultural identities of a place, in areas where converging ideologies, conflicting arguments and collective representations come together by referring to the past and the present. Lipe  has determined the philosophical and cultural management of resources: ‘all the cultural goods, including cultural landscapes, that have survived from the past, are perhaps cultural resources.” That means that they have some kind of potential value or use in the present or the future.
They are also considered as areas where various identities and ideologies (official ones as well as unofficial, prevailing / popular) converge and diverge whether they concern the past or the future.
The above concern the other aspect of history and their dialectic relationship with man and this aspect is of fundamental importance in order to fully understand the past and the future.
On the contrary, an abrupt violent rupture with the past and cultural heritage that has been passed over by previous generations can bulldoze determined human values and customary laws that contribute to the maintenance of social cohesion.
Therefore, architectural heritage and the listed buildings of the cities make up the key link between the cultural environment of the past and the modern environment.
In this light its universal dimension is recognized and man’s obligation is to preserve it, since the monuments are witnesses of man’s existence, activities, and intervention. It represents man’s connection with space, while at the same time it determines the identity of a place as well as contemporary life and its development.
The human environment refers to every one of man’s creations, which regards the past and is connected to its historical situations and its identity and is indelibly associated with the natural environment. Its preservations must therefore be based on a framework of complete viable and sustainable development, focusing on certain requirements such as man’s need to update and enrich the quality of his life.

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