We, the experts assembled in Nara (Japan), wish to acknowledge the
generous spirit and intellectual courage of the Japanese authorities
in providing a timely forum in which we could challenge conventional
thinking in the conservation field, and debate ways and means of
broadening our horizons to bring greater respect for cultural and
heritage diversity to conservation practice.
We also wish to acknowledge the value of the framework for discussion
provided by the World Heritage Committee's desire to apply the test
of authenticity in ways which accord full respect to the social and
cultural values of all societies, in examining the outstanding universal
value of cultural properties proposed for the World Heritage List.
The Nara Document on Authenticity is conceived in the spirit of the
Charter of Venice, 1964, and builds on it and extends it in response
to the expanding scope of cultural heritage concerns and interests
in our contemporary world.
In a world that is increasingly subject to the forces of globalization
and homogenization, and in a world in which the search for cultural
identity is sometimes pursued through aggressive nationalism and the
suppression of the cultures of minorities, the essential contribution
made by the consideration of authenticity in conservation practice
is to clarify and illuminate the collective memory of humanity.
Cultural Diversity and Heritage Diversity
The diversity of cultures and heritage in our world is an irreplaceable
source of spiritual and intellectual richness for all humankind. The
protection and enhancement of cultural and heritage diversity in our
world should be actively promoted as an essential aspect of human development.
Cultural heritage diversity exists in time and space, and demands
respect for other cultures and all aspects of their belief systems.
In cases where cultural values appear to be in conflict, respect for
cultural diversity demands acknowledgment of the legitimacy of the
cultural values of all parties.
All cultures and societies are rooted in the particular forms and
means of tangible and intangible expression which constitute their
heritage, and these should be respected.
It is important to underline a fundamental principle of UNESCO, to
the effect that the cultural heritage of each is the cultural heritage
of all. Responsibility for cultural heritage and the management of
it belongs, in the first place, to the cultural community that has
generated it, and subsequently to that which cares for it. However,
in addition to these responsibilities, adherence to the international
charters and conventions developed for conservation of cultural heritage
also obliges consideration of the principles and responsibilities flowing
from them. Balancing their own requirements with those of other cultural
communities is, for each community, highly desirable, provided achieving
this balance does not undermine their fundamental cultural values.
Values and authenticity
Conservation of cultural heritage in all its forms and historical
periods is rooted in the values attributed to the heritage. Our ability
to understand these values depends, in part, on the degree to which
information sources about these values may be understood as credible
or truthful. Knowledge and understanding of these sources of information,
in relation to original and subsequent characteristics of the cultural
heritage, and their meaning, is a requisite basis for assessing all
aspects of authenticity.
Authenticity, considered in this way and affirmed in the Charter
of Venice, appears as the essential qualifying factor concerning values.
The understanding of authenticity plays a fundamental role in all scientific
studies of the cultural heritage, in conservation and restoration planning,
as well as within the inscription procedures used for the World Heritage
Convention and other cultural heritage inventories.
All judgements about values attributed to cultural properties as
well as the credibility of related information sources may differ from
culture to culture, and even within the same culture. It is thus not
possible to base judgements of values and authenticity within fixed
criteria. On the contrary, the respect due to all cultures requires
that heritage properties must considered and judged within the cultural
contexts to which they belong.
Therefore, it is of the highest importance and urgency that, within
each culture, recognition be accorded to the specific nature of its
heritage values and the credibility and truthfulness of related information
Depending on the nature of the cultural heritage, its cultural context,
and its evolution through time, authenticity judgements may be linked
to the worth of a great variety of sources of information. Aspects
of the sources may include form and design, materials and substance,
use and function, traditions and techniques, location and setting,
and spirit and feeling, and other internal and external factors. The
use of these sources permits elaboration of the specific artistic,
historic, social, and scientific dimensions of the cultural heritage
Suggestions for follow-up (proposed by H. Stovel)
Respect for cultural and heritage diversity requires conscious efforts
to avoid imposing mechanistic formulae or standardized procedures in
attempting to define or determine authenticity of particular monuments
Efforts to determine authenticity in a manner respectful of
cultures and heritage diversity requires approaches which encourage cultures
to develop analytical processes and tools specific to their nature and
needs. Such approaches may have several aspects in common:
ensure assessment of authenticity involve multidisciplinary collaboration
and the appropriate utilisation of all available expertise and knowledge;
efforts to ensure attributed values are truly representative of a
culture and the diversity of its interests, in particular monuments
efforts to document clearly the particular nature of authenticity
for monuments and sites as a practical guide to future treatment and
to update authenticity assessments in light of changing values and
Particularly important are efforts to ensure that attributed values
are respected, and that their determination included efforts to build,
ad far as possible, a multidisciplinary and community consensus concerning
Approaches should also build on and facilitate
international co-operation among all those with an interest in conservation
of cultural heritage, in order to improve global respect and understanding
for the diverse expressions and values of each culture.
and extension of this dialogue to the various regions and cultures of
the world is a prerequisite to increasing the practical value of consideration
of authenticity in the conservation of the common heritage of humankind..
Increasing awareness within the public of this fundamental dimension
of heritage is an absolute necessity in order to arrive at concrete measures
for safeguarding the vestiges of the past. This means developing greater
understanding of the values represented by the cultural properties themselves,
as well as respecting the role such monuments and sites play in contemporary
Definitions Conservation: all efforts designed to understand cultural heritage, know
its history and meaning, ensure its material safeguard and, as required,
its presentation, restoration and enhancement. (Cultural heritage is
understood to include monuments, groups of buildings and sites of cultural
value as defined in article one of the World Heritage Convention).
Information sources: all material, written, oral and
figurative sources which make it possible to know the nature, specifications,
meaning and history of the cultural heritage.
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------- The Nara Document on Authenticity was drafted by the 45 participants
at the Nara Conference on Authenticity in Relation to the World Heritage
Convention, held at Nara, Japan, from 1-6 November 1994, at the invitation
of the Agency for Cultural Affairs (Government of Japan) and the Nara
Prefecture. The Agency organized the Nara Conference in cooperation
with UNESCO, ICCROM and ICOMOS.
This final version of the Nara Document has been edited by the general
rapporteurs of the Nara Conference, Mr. Raymond Lemaire and Mr. Herb