NSERC CREATE Heritage Engineering Workshop on Ethics and Heritage Conservation

Friday, 28 September 2018

9:30 – 12:30


This workshop on ethics and heritage conservation examines ethical behavior relative to the paying client, the public, colleagues, community and the object of the practitioner’s work. Professional codes of ethics have been created internationally for those involved in heritage conservation, ranging from museums to intangible cultural heritage. In Canada, there are codes of ethics for archaeologists, conservators and heritage professionals guided by the principles outlined by ICOMOS. The formulation and treatment of important themes within these documents can provide useful guidance in thinking about possible ethical stances in various contexts or situations.

The workshop looks at example of challenging ethical situations in current practice. Heritage planners and practitioners have an ethical responsibility to care for heritage places. Yet, heritage consultants are sometimes required to provide the advice that paying clients desire, even though that advice negates heritage significance and justifies destruction of recognized historic places. Paying clients sometimes constrain heritage professionals from sharing their reports with successor consultants because of perceived confidentiality and ownership of such materials. On other occasions, heritage consultants are over-ruled by political pressure from elected officials.

The workshop presents case studies that illustrate ethical problems that have been encountered in practice, followed by contexts, guidelines and principles for an ethical approach to heritage conservation. Participants will be encouraged to comment on the theory and practical examples, and to suggest other approaches to address these situations.


9:30 – 9:45

Welcome and introductions – Laurie Smith
Brief introduction to ethics and conservation – Susan Ross

9:45 – 10:45

Part I – Case studies
Christina Cameron, chair

A. Kakadu National Park World Heritage site, Australia
Christina Cameron, Professor, School of Architecture, University of Montreal

This case study raises ethical issues regarding responsibilities to the heritage object and respect for indigenous culture. Kakadu National Park is a unique archaeological and ethnological reserve located in the Northern Territory of Australia, inhabited continuously for more than 40,000 years. The cave paintings, rock carvings and archaeological sites record the skills and way of life of the region’s inhabitants, from the hunter-gatherers of prehistoric times to the Aboriginal people still living there. It is also a unique example of a complex of ecosystems and provides a habitat for a wide range of rare or endemic species of plants and animals. The 1997 proposal for a uranium mine within an enclave of the site raised several ethical concerns from a conservation perspective and a cultural perspective.

B. Basilica of Santa María of Manresa, Spain
Mariana Esponda, Professor, School of Architecture, Carleton University

This case study raises ethical issues regarding the professional conduct of conservators in terms of acquiring knowledge and showing respect for heritage values. Situated high on a towering cliff dominating the view of Manresa and the river, the Basilica of Santa Maria is one of the great gothic churches of Catalonia. The exterior of this 14th-century cathedral is austere and the interior has a wide nave with eight bays of tall octagonal columns with a clerestory of large decorated gothic windows that emphasize its height. A recent conservation project to replace structural interventions in the interior reveals differences of professional opinion with regard to technical approaches.

C. Tourism at UNESCO World Heritage sites: Angkor, Cambodia
Christina Cameron, Professor, School of Architecture, University of Montreal

This case study demonstrates the challenges faced by heritage site managers when mass tourism threatens the conservation of the physical site and the quality of the visitor experience. It focuses on innovative strategies being adopted by site managers at Angkor World Heritage site in Cambodia, an iconic place which experiences a 17% increase in international visitors each year.

10:45 – 11:00


11:00 – 12:00

Part II – Contexts, guidelines, theory
Susan Ross, chair

A. Ethical responsibilities from professional codes of ethics
Susan Ross, Assistant Professor, School of Indigenous and Canadian Studies, Carleton University

Overview of Canadian and international codes of ethics or statements of principle coming from ICOMOS Charters, the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) and other architectural/engineering organizations.

B. Carleton University Collaborative Indigenous Learning Bundles

A brief introduction to this teaching resource developed by Dr. Kahente Horn-Miller, School of Indigenous and Canadian Studies in response to the calls to action of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada to increase the integration of Indigenous knowledge into the classroom. This includes a short video by professor Horn-Miller.

C. Ethical responsibilities for digital technology

This session consists of on-line presentation by Sarah Colley (University of Leceister) on the ethics of digital heritage, including questions around access and storage, followed by comments from Susan Ross. While specifically related to the discipline of archaeology, the on-line presentation shows that technology is not neutral and emphasizes the need for responsible use of digital technology by heritage professionals.

D. Ethical responsibilities for UAV data
Jeremy Laliberté, Associate professor, Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, Carleton University

Overview of codes of ethics for this emerging field of unmanned aerial vehicles with a particular emphasis on the Humanitarian UAV Code of Conduct developed through a network of international collaborators to ensure the safe and responsible use of drones.


Discussion and closing remarks: Susan Ross and Christina Cameron


APSARA National Authority, Angkor Visitor Code of Conduct

Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies, “Guidelines for Ethical research in Australian Indigenous Studies”.

Canadian Archaeological Association, “Principles of Ethical Conduct” and “Statement of Principles for Ethical Conduct Pertaining to Aboriginal Peoples”.

Canadian Association of Heritage Professionals (CAHP), Code of Professional Conduct and Ethics (first three sections on qualifications, professionalism and responsibility to colleagues, employers and clients) http://cahp-acecp.ca/code-of-professional-conduct-and-ethics/

Carleton University Collaborative Indigenous Learning Bundles

Colley, Sarah. Ethics and Digital Heritage – Parts 1 & 3,
Humanitarian UAV Code of Conduct.

ICOMOS Ethical Principles, 2014
Adopted by the 18th General Assembly (Florence, 2014) to replace the Ethical Commitment Statement adopted by the 13th General Assembly (Madrid, 2002). https://www.icomos.org/images/DOCUMENTS/Secretariat/2015/GA_2014_results/20150114-ethics-asadopted-languagecheck-finalcirc.pdf

Ireland, Tracy and John Schofield, editors, The Ethics of Cultural Heritage, Springer, 2015 – available as an online PDF or ebook through CU library

Kalman, Harold, “2.2. Ethics,” Heritage Planning: Principles and Process, pp. 114-135.

Silman, Robert, “Is Preservation Technology Neutral?” APT Bulletin 38.4 (2007): 3-10.

Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, Calls to Action, 2015

UN World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), “Global Code of Ethics for Tourism”.

UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage code of ethics