THE CHARTER OF BARCELONA
lt is a matter of fact that the majority of historic buildings, ships and other items, which have survived intact, have dorre so largely because they have been put to good use, even in recent years and even when that use is very different from the original. The inescapable fact is that continued use ensures that these treasures receive the funding and upkeep they require and deserve.
This was recognized more than 80 years ago by architects in respect of buildings. At the same time, they realized that it was important that any new usage did not destroy the very thing its curators were trying to save, whether by misuse or modification. To this end, an international group of architects and museum technicians drew up a code of best practice and published it in 1931 as the ATHENS CHARTER. This was subsequently reviewed and improved in 1964 when it was re-issued as the VENICE CHARTER.
Both Charters provided guidelines for those in charge ofhistoric buildings how best to ensure their preservation for the future. The adoption of these guidelines has helped them to gain public support, not only in funding but also in tax concessions and other preferential treatment. Furthermore, the Charters’ principles have influenced most of today’s European laws on the protection of monuments.
For some time, the owners of traditional vessels and historians working in the field of maritime history have sought public recognition that adherence to traditional designs and methods of operation are undertaken, not for personal convenience, but in the public interest, i.e. the preservation of our maritime heritage. Hopefully such recognition should be reflected in exemption from draconian or superfluous safety measures as well as in public grant-funding or concessions from harbour, navigation or tax authorities.
Naturally such concessions should be granted only to vessels which achieve a certain level ofhistorical authenticity, or where authentic techniques of traditional seamanship relevant to the vessel’s history are regularly employed. The BARCELONA CHARTER provides a base-level for safeguarding quality. Consequently, if the vessel itself is treated in accordance with the principles of the Charter, and authentic seamanship procedures are employed in operating the vessel, it will attain this minimum level of authenticity which qualifies it as a traditional vessel.
The Charter will provide useful guidelines to owners of traditional vessels, even if they are not familiar with the general principles of keeping historic monuments and objects. Observance of these should ultimately enhance the authenticity and therefore the historic value of their vessels. “Restoration, maintenance, and operation according to the BARCELONA CHARTER” shall be indicative of quality.
A ship or boat which can “earn her keep is more likely to be preserved for posterity than one subject to too many restrictions which may cause the vessel tobe a drain on the owner’s resources. For this reason, a degree of flexibility has been recommended which will allow the vessel to be sailed or steamed while not destroying the intrinsic value of the artefact tobe preserved.
Indeed, it is believed that the education of future generations and their interest in maritime heritage will be enhanced by, if not dependent on, the operation of traditional vessels, which, if in compliance with the terms ofthe Charter, will help to create a general understanding that such vessels help to fulfil the public interest in the conservation ofboth artefacts and skills.
European Maritime Heritage (EMH) believes that such a charter for the floating heritage was long overdue and has adapted the terms of the VENICE CHARTER as appropriate. lt should be noted, however, that the terms ofthe BARCELONA CHARTER (so named because the concept of such a charter was first discussed and agreed at the EMH Congress held in Barcelona in 2001) have been extended to include the traditional seamen’s skills which many historians and curators consider as important as the vessels themselves. The Barcelona Charter has been translated in 19 languages.
The text of the Barcelona Charter as well as a commentary can be downloaded in the documents section.