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Toward "Understanding Heritage"

1. Some problems to be solved

In Medan, I think we were successful with the "Understanding Heritage" stage of the survey. We were able to evaluate and identify most heritages, and classify the data successfully. There are still some problems to be solved, however. For example, the sets of criteria that we have established. These criteria are of academic nature, therefore it requires one to have special training and knowledge to be able to use it. When the surveyors use it, they have to pay some extra attention not to instantly ignore buildings even when they don't have some obvious merits (according to the "academic" criteria). But if a building is popular among local residents and there has developed a strong sentiments attached to it in the community, it should be evaluated accordingly. However it is difficult to find such buildings in the survey, because the surveyors do not always live around the building and the survey period is generally very short. For that purpose, we need to add new values such as "Value for inhabitants" and should think how one should go about finding the buildings of such value.

Next, there is the difference of viewpoints between local residents and outsiders. In the Medan survey, for example we-strangers to Medan-first believed that the "Jenky houses" are. However, a lot of Medan people regarded them not to be of much importance. They are not so popular nowadays, and their design is looked upon as a mere patchwork of various elements. However, we think there will be few of "Jenky" houses in the future if we fail to appreciate them properly. Therefore, it will be necessary that the local viewpoint and the outside viewpoint should be both considered. It is this very difference between them that is necessary to be understood by both parties.

2. Toward "Understanding Heritage"

This manual is relevant to the "Understanding Heritage" stage. We-all of the participants in the Medan survey-thought that if we would like to share heritages in Asia with everybody, we need at first to make a standardized manual that documents our evaluation methods. If future surveys are performed based on this manual, the efforts will go smoother, and the results will be accumulated and recorded in a more precise and consistent manner.

We are now making the website "Understanding the Heritage of Medan" (http://www.medanheritage.org) to describe the manual and materials for "Understanding Heritage." In future, a printed and digital publication will be also a good way to disseminate the information and knowledge. By making a website, we can build a versatile network which allows any researcher anywhere to access the know-how. On the same web, we are also planning to open a database of Medan's urban heritage that would be accessible to the public. Eventually, we will connect the databases created for various, which would allow us to build an efficient and useful database of heritage buildings in Asia, which will hopefully lead to creation of new heritage values, the values that are relevant not only to each city and country, but the universally recognized values across Asia.