The Monumental Challenge of Preservation

The Monumental Challenge of Preservation

The Past in a Volatile World

By Michèle Valerie Cloonan

The enormous task of preserving the world's heritage in the face of war, natural disaster, vandalism, neglect, and technical obsolescence.





The enormous task of preserving the world's heritage in the face of war, natural disaster, vandalism, neglect, and technical obsolescence.

The monuments—movable, immovable, tangible, and intangible—of the world's shared cultural heritage are at risk. War, terrorism, natural disaster, vandalism, and neglect make the work of preservation a greater challenge than it has been since World War II. In The Monumental Challenge of Preservation Michèle Cloonan makes the case that, at this critical juncture, we must consider preservation in the broadest possible contexts. Preservation requires the efforts of an increasing number of stakeholders.

In order to explore the cultural, political, technological, economic, and ethical dimensions of preservation, Cloonan examines particular monuments and their preservation dilemmas. The massive Bamiyan Buddhas, blown up by the Taliban in 2001, are still the subject of debates over how, or whether, to preserve what remains, and the U. S. National Park Service has undertaken the complex task of preserving the symbolic and often ephemeral objects that visitors leave at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial—to take just two of the many examples described in the book. Cloonan also considers the ongoing genocide and cultural genocide in Syria; the challenges of preserving our digital heritage; the dynamic between original and copy; efforts to preserve the papers and architectural fragments of the architect Louis Sullivan; and the possibility of sustainable preservation. In the end, Cloonan suggests, we are what we preserve—and don't preserve. Every day we make preservation decisions, individually and collectively, that have longer-term ramifications than we might expect.


$30.00 X ISBN: 9780262037730 304 pp. | 6 in x 9 in 70 b&w illus.


  • In The Monumental Challenge of Preservation, Michele Valerie Cloonan provides a valuable interdisciplinary exploration of the cultural, economic, ethical, political, social, historical, and technological factors of preservation using case studies and examples from around the world and across time.

    Journal of New Librarianship


  • This book provides a unique, multidimensional perspective into the world of preservation, augmented by a wealth of international examples that showcase its dynamic and paradoxical nature.

    Heather Brown

    Assistant Director, Paper Books and Preventive, Artlab Australia; Project Officer, State Library of South Australia

  • While we have many books on cultural heritage preservation, Cloonan's is exceptional in its international and interdisciplinary scope. She provides a rich, provocative analysis of preservation's cultural, political, social, and historical aspects across the world that is a compelling portrait of its significance and challenges. A must-read for all interested in the topic and working in the field.

    Richard J. Cox

    Emeritus Professor, Archival Studies, University of Pittsburgh

  • This book is about preservation but is not limited to cultural heritage and more technical aspects. It guides the reader through an interdisciplinary and engaging conversation about topics such as memory, respect for cultural differences, human creativity, ethics, sustainability, and the complexity of cultural objects and digital copies, where preservation has a larger meaning than that normally given to the subject. It is important for the reflective practice of students and professionals, but also for all those who have a responsibility for the preservation of culture. It is really a monumental work.

    Anna Maria Tammaro

    Professor, Digital Library, University of Parma