Monday, April 18, 2011

Caring for our Heritage

We are in the midst of National Heritage Week and KAVHA has been presenting a fabulous programme of talks and tours which run through till this coming Wednesday. To start the programme Robyn Ashcroft presented a talk on KAVHA’s significance as a World Heritage Site. She laid out the range of meanings of heritage, from small ‘h’ to capital ‘H’ heritage,  where small ‘h’ is that which is of value to ourselves and our families, working through to those things valued by a local community, a State or Territory, the Nation and then finally the World. Official recognition is given to those places that are of collective value through various Heritage Listings. Of course the KAVHA site has both National and World Heritage Listing.

On this very small island we have more than our fair share of objects that are of value and significance to Australia as a whole. Artefacts held at the Norfolk Island Museum and by many individuals in the local community form part of our common big ‘H’ Heritage – they ‘belong’ to us all as they help tell our stories and are the things that we want to pass on to future generations. There are various pieces of Legislation, both local and Commonwealth that protect the objects and sites that we value such as Moveable Cultural Heritage Acts, Historic Shipwrecks Act and Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation (EPBC) Act. However personal responsibility is also necessary for the care and protection of these objects.

On Norfolk many locals have had the opportunity to find important historical objects over the years – they may have come from the KAVHA area, their own backyard or off the reef. Because there is such importance in making sure that these objects survive over time, we are asking locals to let us know what they have and, where we can, to let us help with looking after them. We have already been able to offer conservation treatment to one local who contacted us to let us know that he has several Sirius objects. We were able to go and see them, provide treatments and will now maintain a regular check on them.

There can be serious consequences if these objects are not properly looked after. We recently received a call from the Australian National Maritime Museum informing us of a cannon ball that had been handed to them by the Australian Federal Police. Museum staff recently brought it back to Norfolk Island. The ball had been given to the Police by a person who said they had previously lived on Norfolk and had then taken it to the mainland when they moved (removing it to the mainland in this manner is illegal). They told the police it was a cannon ball from the Sirius. When the ball began to deteriorate they had no idea what to do with it. Luckily they handed it in – we can now save it from breaking up completely. The photograph shows the deteriorated state of the cannon ball alongside one from our collection that has been properly looked after and conserved.

While it can be exciting to hold these objects in our own possession, their wider value and significance should not be forgotten. They form part of all our common Heritage. Robyn said in her presentation, ‘Heritage is about the future’ – and these important historical objects need to be around for all our future generations. Please give us a call on 23788 if you have a Sirius, KAVHA or other historical object – we would welcome the opportunity to offer conservation treatment and advice.

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