Industrial heritage

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What is Industrial Heritage?

Although many organisations restrict their definition of industrial heritage to include only what remains in existence of the physical aspects of industrial culture (such as buildings, machinery, mines, etc.), the Ballarat and District Industrial Heritage Project takes a broader view of industrial heritage as encompassing all evidence of industrial activity in Ballarat and District. Gary Vines, in his work Industrial Heartland, states:

The modern pattern of industry and other land uses has, to a greater extent, been inherited from earlier unplanned growth. By discovering the heritage of industry in our region we can better understand the forces which have created the present environment and, by this, learn how to better manage it for the future.

The focus of heritage has in the past been on grand mansions and public buildings such as Como, Parliament House and St Patrick’s Cathedral. The wealth that enabled such grand ideas and designs to be fulfilled in these buildings was generated predominantly by the industries of Melbourne, that from their inception, catered to a world market. This industrial economy also created and supported a large labour force and prosperous urban middle classes; without industry, Australia would probably have continued as a decentralised rural economy dominated by landholders – the squatters.

Industry in Australia was initiated and dominated by factories processing rural products. These industries included boiling down works, woolscourers, meat preservers and tanners. They provided the foundation for the diversification of manufacturing which followed. Metal manufacturers developed to service them, banks grew to finance them, government expanded to administer them. And the fabric of society as we know it today, was born.

The Ballarat and District Industrial Heritage Project takes at its heart the idea of "the fabric of society as we know it today". This fabric is a complex weave of tangible elements (things that can be physically experienced) and intangible elements (things that evoke emotional or intellectual responses without the physical experience). Tangible heritage elements are easily recognised and managed - and bodies like UNESCO and the World Bank already have well-developed systems for their management that may be easily replicated or modified. The contribution of intangible elements is less easily identified. In a multi-cultural society, such as Australia, who defines the parameters of what constitutes valuable intangible elements? A person of British Isles ancestry may consider that industrial heritage arises from the time of the Industrial Revolution in the 18th Century; but a person of Chinese ancestry may consider it as arising much earlier - with the development of porcelain in the Han Dynasty (202 BC - 220 AD). Each of these people carries an awareness of the intangible elements and their effects in creating society as they know it today. Events of the past shape not just earth, wood and ore - they shape individuals, families and communities. They are a part of our living identities. Thus, this projects promotes the consideration of the intangible elements of industrial heritage without diminishing the importance of the remnants of the physical aspects of industrial culture. This project, then, is concerned with tracking all the valuable elements of our industrial heritage, such as...

• buildings • machinery • family history
• patents • cultural traditions • images
• mines • books • changes to landscape and environment

Protection of Industrial Heritage

The best way to protect Industrial Heritage is through study, interpretation, and preservation of industrial sites, structures, artifacts, and technology. Applications to include historically significant sites should be made to heritage and planning authorities before the sites are in danger so they can be included on controls.

Many innovations take place within industry, and often result in a large expansion of a manufacturing or industrial site. It is important to know about innovations that have occurred at particular sites and protect them from demolition without due consideration. Listed industrial buildings are more at risk than almost any other kind of heritage, according to a major research project carried out by English Heritage.[2]

Victoria's Framework of Historical Themes

Theme 05 of Victoria's Framework if Historical Themes is Building Victoria's Industries and Workforce. This theme 'embraces the development of Victoria's industrial and manufacturing base, and the development of service industries ...' The sub-themes include Processing raw materials; Developing a manufacturing capacity; Marketing and retailing; Exhibiting Victoria's innovation and products; Banking and finance; Entertaining and Socialising; Catering for tourists, and Working. [3]

Theme O4 - Transforming and Managing and Natural Resources includes industrial heritage areas such as Gold Mining; Exploiting Mineral, Forest and Water Resources, and Transforming the land and Waterways.[4]

Industrial Heritage is also covered under Theme 03 - Connecting Victorian by Transport and Communications.[5]


  1. Vines, Gary. Industrial Heartland. Highpoint City, Vic.: Melbourne's Living Museum of the West, 1990, page 1.

Further Reading

Mounir Bouchenaki. 'The Interdependency of the Tangible and Intangible Cultural Heritage.' ICOMOS 14th General Assembly and Scientific Symposium.$file/THESIS-GuoJie.pdf

External Links

Industrial Heritage Interactive Timeline

TICCIH - the world organisation representing industrial heritage

ICOMOS - a non-governmental international organisation "dedicated to the conservation of the world's monuments and sites"

Australia ICOMOS

Engineering Heritage Australia - Engineers Australia's peak heritage body

Australian Heritage Council - the Australian Government's independent expert advisory body on heritage matters

Oral History Association of Australia - a non-profit body for the practise and promotion of oral history

Oral History Victoria

International Network on Cultural Policy - 'Social and Economic Elements of Intangible and Tangible Cultural Heritage'

--C.K.Gervasoni 09:25, 17 August 2012 (EST); --Beth Kicinski 12:24, 19 February 2013 (EST)

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