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Documentation of traditional craftsmanship - from archive to living heritage

Conference paper
Authors Gunnar Almevik
Published in Association of Critical Heritage Studies. ”Re/theorising heritage” 12.06.05-09, Gothenburg
Publication year 2012
Published at Department of Conservation
Language en
Keywords traditional craftsmanship, intangible cultural heritage, documentation, craft
Subject categories Learning, History of science, Cultural Studies


Traditional craftsmanship is a specified domain in UNESCO’s Convention for the safeguarding of the intangible cultural heritage. During the 20th century, Swedish museums and archives collected artefacts and documents referring to threatened or dying crafts. Documentation methods did not focus on transmitting skills as living heritage. This paper sets out from the idea that safeguarding of traditional crafts must involve the transmitting of craft skills through learning in action. Market demands and educational system used to guarantee this transmission but today, maintenance and development of traditional crafts need involvement from heritage institutions. In order to support employment and education sectors in the assimilation of traditional crafts, heritage institutions are in need of a methodology that corresponds to the ontology of intangible cultural heritage. This paper deals with the documentation of traditional crafts concerning built environment. More specifically, it discusses the problem of externalisation of tacit craft knowledge for the sake of educating specialists and developing research. The goal is to find ways to minimize the loss of meaning and content in the process of externalization and re-practicing from theories and representations. The paper is based on a series of documentation projects run by the Craft-laboratory, University of Gothenburg, which also include qualitative interviews performed with and by highly specialised craftspersons in different contexts. The theoretical platform is given by M. Polany and his concepts of tacit and focal knowledge, the methodological perspective is built upon research by inter alia B. Ehn, B. Rolf, P. Sjömar and N. Wood. The paper presents and reflects upon how heritage institutions can set up and perform documentation in crafts. The results involve interpretations of epistemological concepts of crafting knowledge, setting out from a craftsperson’s methodological perspective. A conclusion is that craftspersons need to become involved in the work of heritage institutions, not only as objects or informants.

Page Manager: Webmaster|Last update: 9/11/2012

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