A Lingering Thought About Historical Preservation

The reason UNESCO denied Bagan World Heritage site, and the reason it will continue to deny it is that the government of Burma has reconstructed the sites using improper methods. They did not adhere to prevailing techniques for restoration and could possibly be accused of doing more harm than good in their efforts.

You can see clearly here how the several different building materials have been slapped together to "restore" this statue. The original stone sits against brick and mortar, and plaster coats the statue. The artist's ideals of what the statue should have looked like are imprinted in the plaster.

The GDP per capita in Burma is around $1,100 (per Wikipedia). The costs to do a proper restoration on over 2,000 13th century temples would be staggering.

If a place destroyed by time and neglect is restored, is it not already a creative effort? Is not any attempt at restoration counter to the narrative of the site? If a country is too poor to achieve a restoration that meets modern standards, are they then to keep their historical heritage in piles? Or do they have to receive international funds (and the strict stipulations that come with them) to do the restoration?

To whom does our history belong? To the people who live in a place? To the people who govern them? To the whole of humanity?