Begin with Benefits: Reducing Bias in Conservation Decision-Making
The National Trust for Scotland (NTS) has undertaken a radical revisioning process via a collections and interiors review to protect significance whilst broadening support for conservation. This project reframes the consequences arising from a selection of current and possible uses of collections within an historic building. It creates a lifetime risk approach against which short-term activities can be benchmarked to inform decision-making at a local level. Instead of framing consequences from operation or more intense visitor patterns in terms of tangible change the project jointly conceives benefits across the mission of NTS allowing a direct comparison between benefits and consequences. A representative selection of current and possible use scenarios is being generated by the staff of Newhailes House, Edinburgh. A framework is presented in which the anticipated benefits from proposed activities will be identified and roughly quantified. Results of these assessments will be manipulated to create effective communication visuals. Psychology suggests that this will enable a more informed and balanced stakeholder engagement. This project fundamentally shifts the conservation discussion from permissive versus conservative conservation approaches, replacing the statements that ‘I am a no touch’ or ‘I am a please touch’ conservator with an evidence-informed and bias-reduced decision-making strategy.