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The « dinosaurs » of industrial heritage

can gigantic and bulky “individuals” be reused?

Why these dinosaurs" ?

This DVD-ROM introduces, according to the different cases, either to a rapid presentation
or a deeper knowledge of 120 European big or extremely big size industrial site, dispersed over some twenty countries..

Their choice, even if restricted to a very limited sample with regard to the extreme wealth of the industrial heritage of the considered 21 countries, has been by no means an haphazard one, even if not an easy one. The authors did not want to set aside those sites which are inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List, although they are relatively well known thanks to other publications; however, they deemed it fair to make the public better familiarised with sites of a different kind, which until know did not attain the same level of notoriety on the international cultural stage, in spite of the fact that knowing and interpreting them can provide an equally exciting access to the sphere of industrial heritage.

The intention has been to review, even if through such a quick itinerary, the main aspects of that heritage. Not more than twenty of them belong to the scope of textile industries, which have been among the fisrt ones to be welcomed to the field of exploration of industrial archaeology. The same what touches some fifteen sites or monuments (bridges, viaducts, canals, railways, stations) pertaining to the field of civil engineering and of architecture linked to new building materials, of which achievements are closely connected with the different stages of industrialisation.

However, the true meaning of that operation does not lie there. It will remained marked by the rather long-term conjuncture in which times it will have been implemented. That conjuncture has been encompassing the agony of most of extractive industries and of a good number of industrial basins which had been famous because of their ironworks and mechanical engineering plants. The attention of the public opinion and of all kinds of authorities should be drawn to the risks which are looming on their architectural and technical vestiges, of which size and cumbersome appearance are raising at first look so much reluctance – as a consequence of a superficial information. Truly said, they are loaded with human memory and with features of local, regional or national, economic and technical history, that should suggest a spontaneously respectful attitude, in the context of a carefully selective and justified policy of protection and reuse.

Thus one will not keep from observing the space consecrated to mining sites – either coal or metallic (about twenty), to ironworks (a dozen), to metallurgy and mechanical engineering industries (another dozen), but also to the heritage of ports and arsenals (close to fifteen), which are analogous to the former sites because of the radical way in which they have been dismissed and of the physical scale of the problems they are raising. It has been intended, further, to give fair room to a dozen of workers’ housing sites, belonging to a very varied typology, which are establishing a straight connection between life styles from the times of industry and new ways of life in the post-industrial era.

Each of the 120 files comes with a common structure, which allows to link the particular cases to the general problematic which is transversal to the whole thought and action of TICCIH. Apart from the voices regarding the geographical situation, or the bibliography, the sites are subject to a presentation (at least for the most important among them), to a historical study, to an analysis of their current status and material condition, and finally of the thematic and ways of enhancement or reuse which are their own fate.
In this way, for each of them their characteristic features are underlined – either technical, architectural, morphological, etc. – which deserve a specific attention; their links with the different historical stages of industrialisation; the degree of protection they are enjoying or should enjoy; their physical resistance or precariousness; and finally their contribution to the maintenance of the memory of such or such major aspect of the industrial European heritage along the road towards its construction.

The conception and the realization of that DVD have been up to Maria Teresa Maiullari Pontois*, who has recruited and driven the team of collaborators (about ninety of them), written part of the notes, revised the texts, selected the illustrations and provided some necessary translations.
Louis Bergeron** has assisted her in his quality of scientific adviser. He also ensured the recuperation of a certain number of files which had been collected by care of TICCIH in the course of the nineties, and which until then had not been given any form of outlet.

*Ph.D.in History, member of TICCIH Board, researcher at the Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales (Paris)
**Professor (retired) at the Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales (Paris), TICCIH honorary President for life.

Project partners:

  • Ecomusée du Creusot-Montceau (France), chef de file
  • LE Rhenisches Industriemuseum (Allemagne), coorganisateur
  • Museu de la Ciencia i de la tecnica de Catalunya (Espagne), coorganisateur
  • Le Centro Internazionale "Città d'Acqua" (Italie), coorganisateur



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