"This essay offers some thoughts on the recent changes that have affected the meaning of the concept of preservation of the built heritage. It stresses that preservation represents one particular aspect of the relationship between a given society and its past, and that it has been, since its origins until the last few decades, oriented by the members of the cultivated elite whose primary preoccupation was to protect the "outstanding remains" of the past. The aim of the didactic aspect of such an orientation is to provide a group with a unified and somewhat "official" image of a common and glorious past. "Monuments", were protected, i.e. outstanding objects, with unique qualities conveying clear messages. Policies of preservation for architectural heritage have evolved under the pressure of new local claims for power as well as under the influence of research In the social sciences, which have contributed to make local cultures better understood. In particular, socio-history gives new value to the many place-specific, regional and local histories and therefore to the varied objects that are connected to them. This widening of the field covered by the concept and sentiment of heritage and the more tolerant attitude it promotes spreads at a time when the meanings of many monuments are interpreted in Individual ways, allowing a kind of personal use of such monuments as triggers for private emotions. Such a transformation in the meaning of architectural heritage leads to the image of a "golden age", a common and vernacular past that is devoid of all traces of past conflicts. What are the consequences of such changes, for example when a place whose history belongs to a given group is assigned a new symbolic role? Is it possible to expect agreement on the social uses of the past? The answer to these questions lays in the values that are at stake in each transformation of place, and depends on the amount of emotion involved in each case. As a consequence, the disappearance, or replacement, that is to say the definitive metamorphosis of the meaning of a historic place, becomes an ethical issue. The complexity of the latter is in direct relation to the role a given historic place plays in the collective memory. The more it is tragic, sacred and connected to the identity of a given group people, the more it is difficult to solve. This latter notion of identity is at the heart of the problem of the misuse of the concept of historic preservation. Many historic preservation ideologies eventually drift toward nationalistic and often racist positions because they are based on the idea that the built heritage is a "treasure" and therefore a particular kind of collective belonging that should be protected from any foreign intrusion. This simplistic interpretation of the meaning of heritage should not be overlooked, for it has served many times as a justification for many tragic events."