Heritage Council

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Good heritage practice

Good heritage practice is the approach you should take in treating heritage within your project: proven activities, advice, ethics and methodologies that, if followed, should result in heritage being treated appropriately. That means that it should not be damaged and, where possible, its condition should be improved; that in turn should be central to ensuring that a project meets its desired outcomes.

So for example:

  • the conservation of a stained glass window should not involve re-painting parts of the window or storm glazing
  • in conserving buildings, it is best to use materials that match the original technologies used. For example, if lime mortar was used in a wall, repair it with lime mortar, not concrete; in repairing a thatched roof, use traditional styles and local materials
  • the restoration of a wetland should not result in the destruction of another habitat
  • the method chosen to eradicate rhododendron and other invasive species should follow the Best Practice Management Guidance from Invasive Species Ireland.

Good heritage practice can mean particular practice on the ground, eg in repairing a building or restoring a habitat. It can also mean the way you plan for heritage, for example:

  • carrying out a conservation report on a building or heritage object
  • drawing up a conservation management plan for a site of cultural and wildlife interest
  • drawing up conservation plans for special places and landscapes.

The principles behind the practice may vary from one field of heritage to another. For example in building conservation, the concept of restoration is discouraged, while in a wildlife project restoration is central to particular habitat management projects. For research projects, good practice means using the most robust methodology available and appropriate to your project.

But all heritage projects require access to sound advice and information before a project starts up, and all require the heritage element to be at the centre of the project. This is likely to require the use of a professional in a relevant field of heritage, either to advise or to supervise.

Principles of good practice and sources of advice for specific fields of heritage

Buildings
  • Minimal intervention
  • Reversibility
  • Building materials: replace like with like
  • Thatched roofs: use local materials and their associated techniques
  • Use architects and engineers who have experience in building conservation
  • See websites of the RIAI and Irish Georgian Society
Objects or documents
  • Minimal intervention
  • Reversibility
  • Materials: replace like with like
  • Work to be carried out by a qualified or experienced conservator
  • See websites of ICHAWI, IPCRA and the Society of Archivists
Biodiversity
  • Use scientifically proven methods
  • Use proven methodologies in restoring habitats or removing invasive species
  • Work with, not against, natural processes especially on the coast and rivers
  • Work to be supervised by a qualified, experienced ecologist
  • See websites of NPWS, National Biodiversity Data Centre, National Botanic Gardens, Inland Fisheries Ireland
Archaeology
  • Seek help and advice from the National Monuments Service or your local Heritage Officer
  • Understand through research before carrying out any works
  • Minimal intervention
  • Record by least destructive method
  • Report finds to the National Museum of Ireland
  • See websites of National Monuments Service and Institute of Archaeologists of Ireland