by Miguel Ángel Álvarez Areces
B.S .degree in Economics (University of Santiago de Compostela). President of INCUNA (Industry, Culture and Nature). President of TICCIH-Spain. Editor of Ábaco, a culture and social science magazine.
Industrial Heritage is both the remains and the object of collective memory. The heritage of the industrial revolution and the traces it left behind have become new cultural goods.
The notion of Industrial Heritage includes buildings, machines, tools, artifacts, archives, infrastructures, homes, and the services that operate in social and productive processes, as well as the ways of seeing and understanding life in connection to the former. This whole universe extends beyond the foundational goals of Industrial Archeology and gives way to a new concept where all of this fits, namely Industrial Heritage.
Industrial Heritage is a witness to the everyday, a part of the memory of labor and place. It is necessary to regard mens’ and womens’ roles in work and industrial processes as something else than mere workforce – as the creators of a unique culture which makes buildings and machines meaningful.
The immaterial Industrial Heritage also includes a wide array of elements that instill a sense of humanity and reality into the physical testimonies of work: music, as for instance the traditional mining songs that have become symbols of a society; job reenactments, such as shoring contests; productivity awards, like the Hunosa medals; the industry jargon – they are all a part of the culture and the memory of labor, lasting for several generations, sometimes even longer than the facilities where the said labor took place. Their protection must be complementary to that of the actual industrial sites – to have one without the other would be senseless.
The recovery of the historic Industrial Heritage for new uses is an entrepreneurial activity in itself, as well as a boost to the self-esteem of the local population. The preservation and reappraisal of the Industrial Heritage in areas in economic decline offsets this tendency and makes possible new cultural and creative industries.