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Heritage conservation as cultural work: Public negotiation of a Pacific hero

Wharton, Glenn; (2005) Heritage conservation as cultural work: Public negotiation of a Pacific hero. Doctoral thesis , UCL (University College London). Green open access

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Abstract

This thesis shows how heritage conservation can engage in cultural work. In the course of preserving an object, it can reveal social patterns and stimulate dialogue about representing the past. At the same time, the cultural "findings" can enter into the physical intervention of conservation. The aim is to use a more participatory process of conserving material culture that simultaneously opens up relationships between communities and objects, while enabling people to take greater control over elements of their environment. Such a practice has potential for creating culture and community in the process of conserving objects and cultural sites. It expands the focus of conservation from its product to its process. In so doing it addresses heritage industry critics that charge conservation of freezing inauthentic versions of the past to sustain elite ideological control or facilitate commercial exploitation. The "participatory conservation" of the Kamehameha I monument in North Kohala, Hawai'i, provides the case-study basis for the research. Commissioned in 1878 to commemorate Captain Cook's "discovery" of the Hawaiian Islands and promote a western style monarchy, the monument lends itself to revealing complex and contested meanings. The image of Hawaii's first monarch is a cultural hybrid; he stands in the posture of a Roman emperor while wearing highly symbolic feathered garments of Hawaiian sovereignty. Over the monument's history, the community deliberately altered its physical appearance by painting it in life-like colours. The monument physically deteriorated, with surface elements obscured by the heavy layering of paint. Conservation of the monument proceeded through ethnographic and other methods of qualitative methodology, combined with archival research, materials analysis, and technical intervention. The project shows how complex networks of symbolic meaning can become an intrinsic part of the conservation process. Participatory conservation is proposed as a conservation method that is applicable to other circumstances and world settings.

Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Title: Heritage conservation as cultural work: Public negotiation of a Pacific hero
Identifier: PQ ETD:602647
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Language: English
Additional information: Thesis digitised by ProQuest. Third party copyright material has been removed from the ethesis. Images identifying individuals have been redacted or partially redacted to protect their identity.
UCL classification: UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of S&HS > Institute of Archaeology
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/1446722
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