Listing and Documentation is the primary and the most important activity of INTACH Chapter. They undertake listing (inventory) of (i) Natural Heritage, (ii) Built Heritage, (iii) Art (Material) Heritage, and (iv) Intangible (Living) Heritage, in accordance with the guidelines. The information thus collected can be effectively used for creating awareness about the local heritage. It can also facilitate action for providing legal protection to heritage assets. However it is important that a listing is published, not only for purposes of record but also for wider dissemination in the form of reference books and guide books, etc.
What Is Built Heritage?
Built heritage should be deemed to mean those buildings, artifacts, structures, areas and precincts that are of historic, aesthetic, architectural or cultural significance and should include natural features within such areas or precincts of environmental significance or scenic beauty such as sacred groves, hills, hillocks, water bodies (and the areas adjoining the same), open areas, wooded areas, etc. It must be recognized that the cultural landscape around a heritage site is critical for the interpretation of the site and its built heritage and thus is very much an integral part of it.
Why Conserve Built Heritage
Architectural heritage is perhaps the most permanent reminder of the culture of any civilization. The conservation of built heritage is therefore perceived to be in the long-term interest of society. This can be better understood if categorized under ‘economic’, ‘cultural’, and ‘environmental’, although they are not mutually exclusive and, indeed, they are often interlocked.
Criteria For Listing Built (Architectural) Heritage
Obviously, the first and foremost step in fulfilling the mandate of preserving and conserving heritage is to first know what it is. And that means its inventorization or listing, which is also meant to protect historic buildings from needless demolition as towns and cities get redesigned and rebuilt. However there is no restriction on a listed building remaining in use. Listing of the cultural heritage should, therefore, constitute the most important activity of a Chapter.
Although inter-related, the following three key concepts need to be understood to determine whether a property is worthy of listing:
- Historic significance
- Historic integrity
- Historic context
One or more of these concepts needs to be applicable to a building to make it worthy of listing.
Historic significance is the importance of a property to the history, architecture, archaeology, engineering or culture of a community, region or nation.
In selecting a building, particular attention should be paid to the following:
- Association with events, activities or patterns
- Association with important persons
- Distinctive physical characteristics of design, construction or form, representing work of a master craftsman
- Potential to yield important information such as illustrating social and economic history, through the railway stations, town halls, clubs, markets, water works, etc.
- Technological innovations such as dams, bridges, etc.
- Distinct town planning features like squares, streets, avenues, e.g. Rajpath in Lutyens New Delhi
Historic integrity is the authenticity of a property’s historic identity, evidenced by the survival of physical characteristics that existed during the property’s historic period.
Historic integrity enables a property to illustrate significant aspects of its past. Not only must a property resemble the historic appearance but it must also retain physical materials, design features and aspects of construction dating from the period when it attained significance.
Historic context is information about historic trends and properties grouped by an important theme in the history of a community, region or nation during a particular period of time. Knowledge of historic context enables the list-maker to understand a historic property as a product of its time.
A historic building complex may comprise numerous ancillary structures besides the main structure within the same precinct giving the complex its identity. Each such structure contributing to the complex needs to be documented on individual Performas, but in a sequence at one place. The historic building complex may also have a historic garden. The historic gardens could be of all scales, historic periods, and various typologies such as independent gardens or those attached to forts, palaces, havelies, tombs, courtyards, temples, houses, bungalows, archaeological sites or botanical gardens. As a first stage, the following preliminary data may be collected and incorporated in the listing:
- The name
- Date, period
- Brief description
- Known sources of information – people, publications, etc.
- Any other data of relevance
Methodology Of Listing
Listing work comprises two phases:
Before commencing the actual fieldwork, the lister should gather basic information from various sources including gazettes, travel books and several other specialized books on the history of the area to be listed. This work could be done in the libraries and archives of various universities and other institutions of the central government, the state government and of private individuals or trusts. Many of the museums established by the central government or state governments or even private museums can provide interesting information. In a given area, local experts, professionals and scholars could also provide the required guidance and help.
This would ensure that no important structure or representative style of building is left out. Background research essentially helps in identifying historic areas, historic developments in the area, significance of the events that may have taken place at different times, important persons who may have shaped historical developments, cultural developments, and similar features that may be unique to the area. In some well documented areas, distinctive physical characteristics of design, construction, materials, and forms of buildings can also be identified.
Before launching into field work, the lister should collect a reliable map of the area and its various constituents. Survey of India maps and those available with the state department on town and country planning should prove useful. However, at the field level, ward maps available with the municipal/ cantonment/panchayat authorities may be of greater help. In some cities, transport network maps (such as the maps by Eicher in Delhi) may be equally useful.
Field work requires lot of leg-work to scan the heritage properties and to record information for each property in the prescribed format. This comprises physically inspecting the property as well as meeting local people such as owners of the property, talking to other residents, to local ward or panchayat members, and knowledgeable residents and representatives of institutions. By physically inspecting the property the lister can gather facts such as physical characteristics of the property, the date of construction, style of construction, design characteristics, etc., that are relevant for recording in the format prescribed for listing. By conducting a dialogue with the residents, one can determine the changes to the property over time, ownership details, historic function and activities, association with events and persons, and the role of the property in local, regional or national history. Photography is an important component of the listing. A photograph freezes the building and its setting in the time when it is taken. In this context, old photographs, if available, can constitute a very important record in the listing. A comparison would show the changes that have occurred over time to the building and, in particular, to its embellishments.