Part of Historic Environment Scotland

Conservation Principles and Ethics

Dates: 18/09/18
Days of the week: Tuesday, Wednesday
Total hours: 42.5
Taught hours: 17.5
On-site instruction: 14.5
Off-site instruction: 4


Study the broad principles and ethics of heritage conservation, both today and over the past 300 years, to learn how best to tackle issues of building decay.

Central to this module is the concept of cultural significance, which emerged in Western societies in the Age of Enlightenment. Over time, this evolved to shape the many international charters focused on the historic environment that came into being from the mid-20th century to the present day.

Discover how current conservation principles and ethics – such as the value of historic assets, the importance of authenticity, and appropriate levels of intervention – should act as the framework for pragmatic decision-making.

You will also find out how the theories of Geddes, Morris, Ruskin and other great names helped to get us to where we are today.

Study the broad principles and ethics of heritage conservation, both today and over the past 300 years, to learn how best to tackle issues of building decay.


Entry requirements

Individual modules are open to anyone with an interest in the subject matter. Applicants for the Advanced Professional Diploma should have a relevant degree or professional experience.

Classes, lectures and presentations

  • Antiquarianism and Birth of Conservation Ethic
  • National and International Organisations
  • National and International Charters
  • Establishment of Common Principles
  • Conservation in Post-war Scotland
  • Conservation in Wider Context
  • Degrees of Intervention
  • Pragmatic Conservation
  • Conservation in Scotland Today
  • Understanding Significance
  • Balancing Theory and Practice

Potential site visits

  • Edinburgh Old Town (Geddes sites)
  • New Lanark
  • Stirling Castle
  • Glenelg Brochs
  • Bernera Barracks
  • City Heritage Trust sites
  • Townscape Heritage Initiative sites
  • Conservation Area Regeneration Scheme sites


Evolution of conservation movement (Scotland, UK and Europe)

  • Birth of modern antiquarianism in the 18th century
  • Establishment of common principles in the 19th century – including Ruskin, Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings, Geddes
  • Establishment of civic organisations and government bodies in late 1800s/early 1900s – e.g. National Trust, Royal Commissions
  • Early Ancient Monuments Acts
  • Mid-20th century progress (Athens Charter, ICOMOS) and devolution (National Trust for Scotland, Scottish Georgian Group)
  • International charters – e.g. Athens Charter (1931), Venice Charter (1964), Burra Charter (1979), Stirling Charter (2000)

Post-war developments

  • Innovations in town planning and listed building legislation in Scotland
  • Emergence of Scottish conservation movement in 1960s and 1970s as reaction to excesses of post-war redevelopment
  • Enhanced conservation legislative framework – Civic Amenity Act 1967 and Planning Act 1972
  • Establishment of publicly-funded conservation bodies such as City Heritage Trusts and Conservation Area Regeneration Schemes
  • Emergence and significance of Building Preservation Trusts from 1970s – e.g. New Lanark Trust, Four Acres Charitable Trust, Cockburn Association
  • Role of Heritage Lottery Funding in conservation projects since 1994
  • Policies determining the future of the historic environment in Scotland
  • Understanding the significance and determining the value of historic environment assets
  • Understanding the importance of reversibility and sustainability of repairs
  • Balancing theory and practice in heritage management, given difficult political, economic, environmental or cultural contexts