Patrick Martin Leads International Preservation Effort

by John Gagnon, promotional writer

Michigan Tech’s industrial archaeology program, which enjoys worldwide stature, now has even more distinction.

Patrick Martin, chair of Social Sciences, has been named the president of The International Committee for the Conservation of the Industrial Heritage (TICCIH), which has a hand in helping identify sites around the world to be added to the United Nations’ World Heritage List–a compilation of natural and cultural places around the world that have “outstanding, universal human value.”

Specifically, TICCIH calls attention to industrial heritage sites, for its charge is to conserve, investigate, document, research, and interpret industry and its material remains.

Martin has been involved with TICCIH for about six years and was the only board member from the US. Members number about 400; they range from Barcelona to Sydney, Cape Town to Taipei, Helsinki to Houghton.

Martin says that Tech will benefit from this association. “This raises our profile,” he says. “More people”–he means students and scholars–“will know about us as we engage on a world stage.” His appointment is for three years. TICCIH holds a world congress every three years. The last one, when Martin was made president, was in September in Freiberg, Germany.

The World Heritage List, which is maintained by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), includes 890 properties in 148 nations. At present, there are no industrial sites in the US on the list, only natural entities like Yellowstone and Grand Canyon National Parks and cultural sites like Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello.

Industrial heritage is the stuff of railroads, textile mills, and mining. Martin calls the industrial revolution of the eighteenth century “one of the most profound social revolutions in human history.”

“Industry has created the modern world,” Martin says. “The shape of our country, including places like the Copper Country, and many of the relationships between global powers have been heavily influenced by industrialization. It makes us who we are. Why are you and I here? Why is Michigan Tech here? It’s not like we fell out of the sky. All this action going on around us today is because of copper mining in the nineteenth century.”

Industrial heritage sites, then, can be an inspiration and a lesson, he says. “If we don’t understand how we got the way we are, it’s very difficult to map a good path into the future.”

TICCIH was formed about 30 years ago. Most of its activity has been in Europe, which, Martin says, leads the US in industrial preservation efforts. Martin hopes to expand TICCIH’s influence and membership to the US, Africa, and Asia. “We need to be global,” he says. “This will require financial efficiency.”

Accordingly, he has already instituted cost-cutting moves by publishing the quarterly newsletter online and conducting some meetings online.

For years, Michigan Tech, with Martin’s lead, has been the headquarters for the Society for Industrial Archeology. He says of his new duties: “It’ll be interesting and challenging, and it’s a great opportunity.”

As well, he says, the work dovetails with the University’s strategic goal of achieving international engagement.

Published in Tech Today


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