EAUH Conference 2018


Session M23. Resisting To Urban Changes: Voluntary Associations For Protection And Enhancement Of Cultural Heritage In Europe (1880-1940).

Coordinators: Angelo Bertoni (, Lidia Piccioni (

During the second half of nineteen century, European cities and countries are subjected to major transformations. The infrastructure modernization and the industrialization of production processes are the main causes. Confronted with these changes and the emergence of a nostalgic gaze toward the “lost” city, the first voluntary associations for the protection of historical, artistic and landscape heritage are founded.
Often linked to specific events, these associations are formed in response to public authorities’ projects, considered as an attack to the historical city integrity, or to protect natural sites threatened by urban development. The Associazione per la difesa di Firenze antica (1898) or the Société française pour la protection des paysages (1906) are relevant examples. Other initiatives are recorded in the same years in Brussels, Rome, Lausanne and in many other European cities. All of them contributed to initiate a civic movement which developed, in various forms, through the entire twentieth century until today.
The session aims to explore the history of voluntary associations, focusing on the period between 1880 and 1940. It covers the role played by civic movements in the construction of a common consciousness and based on identity and memorial dimension. Papers dealing with the following topics will be considered:
The professional local elites. Architects, historians and other professional actors participated actively in the creation of local associations. Individual skills contributed to the construction of a collective memory, focusing on the protection of the architectural and artistic heritage considered as vectors of civic values and identity. If the voluntary associations founded in capital or important cities have already been partially studied many other local experiences remain to be explored.
National and international associations as a place of civil society engagement. The spread of new interests, like the one for the urban and natural landscape, celebrated as shared heritage, it was at the origin of the Club Alpino Italiano and the Touring Club Italiano. These associations were engaged in the protection and enhancement of heritage and contribute to build a collective awareness, through the publication of journals and the organization of public events. An increasing relationship emerged between voluntary associations and new institutions, such as the Associazione Nazionale dei Comuni d’Italia (1901) created to express the local governments’ point of view. The attempt of institutionalisation of voluntary associations should be analysed.
The local authorities. Political, cultural and economic contexts encouraged the involvement of the public administration into heritage protection and the development of specific research and information tools. The case of the Survey of London (1894) or that of the Commission du Vieux Paris (1897) seem particularly relevant. Other experiences should be explored.
Keywords: voluntary association; heritage; historical cities; landscape; civic movements; Europe