Introduction ICOMOS Norway

Introduction ICOMOS Norge 23.03.2006 by Roberta Luciani Havran

World War One (WW1) should be the war that ended all wars, Second World War definitely should be. And luckily, most Europeans have been fortunate enough to live in peace for more than sixty years. But both these wars, as well as the cold war to follow, have left lots of physical remains across the continent — traces to which many of us feel a bit ambivalent. We were brought up with the obligation to remember, but at the same time we ask ourselves if these remains are able to teach us anything substantial.
The Norwegian author Erland Kiøsterud asks himself what really takes place in us when confronted with the remains of the world war .His answer is quite simple: «Inherited compassion and, if we have the ability to feel empathy, shock. Do we get to know anything new about ourselves? No. »
However, another Norwegian author,  Lasse Midttun, writes in his book on WW1: «Soon, everyone alive will be equal also in this respect.  No one alive have been present. But someone, at least, have been to the site. Something that has not «taken place» might not ever have happened. The author truly uses his journey to the memorial grounds of WW1 as starting point for his story. Being there is actually the catalyst of the narrative. If they had passed away as well as the survivors eventually do, the book might never have been written. And the book, definitely, tells us something about ourselves.

Fortifications used in battle, where people have lost their lives, easily turn into memorials. To many they are unimpeachable, like cemeteries. We do not have a lot of such places in Norway from the 20.century: The separation from Sweden turned out peacefully, Norway was not involved in WW1, and the battles on Norwegian soil during WW2 took place on few grounds with relatively minor losses.
The more fortifications have been built for battles that luckily never occurred. Are they worthy of preservation? If so, on what grounds? As technical manifestations? As aesthetics? As monuments over the will to defend? As memorials of the cold war as epoch?
Every trace of human actions are cultural heritage, according to the definition in the Norwegian law. But a piece of cultural heritage is valuable — and consequently worthy of preservation — only if it is recognized as valuable. The value is not inherent in the object; it is attributed to the object by the will of an evaluating subject.
This attribution is a demanding task: We claim that the object — in competition with lots of other objects — is worthy of long-term, basically eternal priorities of society. That should make the choice difficult, and in Norway the evaluation process has consumed great efforts.
Today we are gathered to view pieces that have been chosen, others that were not. If the election will be defended or ridiculed by posterity, only the living will know.