Excavating globalisation from the ruins of colonialism: Archaeological Heritage Management Responses to Cultural Change

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The conservation in situ of colonial archaeological remains is today regularly required by heritage
and planning authorities. Examples in post-colonial nations have proliferated in recent years, in line
with similar archaeological projects around the globe. These conserved sites tend to fall into a
number of categories: archaeological landscapes, where conserved remains become a layer in a
rich urban environment; archaeology as an aesthetic focus: where the archaeology inspires a
design approach to a place; and symbolic or ‘sacred’ sites; where the site is linked to, or
embodies, crucial cultural and historical themes. These examples of conservation in situ are
generally cited as examples of the maturing heritage conservation system, as in past decades
conservation in situ was often seen as the unachievable aim of archaeological heritage
management, due in part to minimal public and political support for conservation in the face of
development pressure. While these places are certainly partly ‘conservation successes’, they are
also the result of distinctive forms of cultural practice emerging in response to cultural change,
including perceptions of cultural globalization. The technical achievement of conservation in situ,
particularly when presented within bold new urban and architectural designs, represents the
technological success of the fully modern nation as participant in the global economy, while also
constructing ‘material memories’ of pasts which are portrayed as uniquely local. Such cultural
practices have recently been termed ‘memory work’ because of the way the conservation of
archaeological remains can be seen to construct material memories of particular aspects of the
past (Hamilakis and Labanyi, 2008). I argue that this involvement of archaeological conservation
in ‘memory work’ has meant that some of the traditional philosophies and practices of
archaeological heritage management have been outgrown, and suggest ways that significance
assessment and conservation methods in particular, need to be re-conceptualised in the context of
cultural change.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationChanging World, Changing Views of Heritage: heritage and social change
Subtitle of host publicationProceedings of the ICOMOS Scientific Symposium
EditorsElene Negussie
Place of PublicationParis, France
Number of pages11
ISBN (Print)9782918086048
Publication statusPublished - 2012
EventChanging world, changing views of heritage: heritage and social change - Dublin, Dublin, Ireland
Duration: 26 Oct 201031 Oct 2010


ConferenceChanging world, changing views of heritage: heritage and social change


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