A reflection on the Wellington Online Heritage Inventory

In the second of our guest articles by students and graduates of the Museum and Heritage Studies programme at Victoria University of Wellington, Rebecca Ford writes about the new Wellington City Council Heritage Inventory.

Christmas came early for Wellington heritage fans on 29 November. The Wellington City Council Heritage Inventory ( www.wellingtoncityheritage.org.nz ) has finally launched, and it is a goody-bag of historical delight that will be relished all year round.

The online heritage inventory has been in the pipeline for a while. It’s an open, accessible publication of the 2012/2013 heritage assessments of the District Plan heritage list. These documents were always available on request, but the process took time. Having them closeted prevented them from being resources for the whole community. Now, the inventory could easily become the go-to source for any research on Wellington’s listed heritage buildings.

And what a go-to source. We can browse through buildings, architects, and heritage areas; search by name, address, or keyword; utilise the multiple filters! It’s telling that ‘Earthquake Prone is one of the filter options. It clearly acknowledges that earthquake resilience is a key issue in the public mind and in heritage management. It’s perhaps unfortunate the options are in formal terms – you’re going to need to understand Sections 123 and 124 to know what you’re getting. Yet it’s a great way of informing people of the earthquake status of a heritage building, and indicates the considerable effort the Heritage Team is putting into this area.

Screenshot of the Heritage Inventory filter menu, showing earthquake prone options.

As well as being easy to use, the site looks good. There’s something telling in the tidy organisation – it reveals how heritage is understood and assessed.

The drop-down subheadings that manage the mass of writing for each building are those that the assessment reports contain. Likewise, the cultural value section shows how aesthetic, historic, scientific, and social values all contribute to the significance of the building. It articulates how issues of authenticity, rareness, representativeness, and importance contribute to the level of cultural heritage significance of the building.

It’s usually easy to understand the value of heritage as personal opinion. This shows how the council values heritage on behalf of the community. They illustrate how assessments try to qualify the myriad ways heritage can have significance to different people, and accommodate them within a consistent, cohesive, and rigorous heritage schedule.

The Online Wellington Heritage Inventory is not only a huge boon of those interested in this city’s buildings and history. It is also clear and public proof that heritage classifications are not thrown around willy-nilly. Well done to the Wellington City Council Heritage Team – for the assessments four years ago and for making them openly available in such a beautiful and useful way.

Check it out at www.wellingtoncityheritage.org.nz

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