The People’s Ground ICOMOS/National Trusts Conference

The People’s Ground Conference runs from the 4th to the 8th of October at the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG). I am very grateful to have had the opportunity to attend the sessions today and present a snapshot paper on the Commissariat Store Museum’s audio guide.

I wanted to briefly reflect on a few topics that were raised in various papers. There were three that particularly resonated with me. I also thought I’d provide a summary of my paper!

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  1. Peter Lovell – “Killing the Inspiration”

Peter Lovell’s keynote presentation was the first of the day. It was an incredibly interesting and thought-provoking paper focusing on contemporary heritage and contemporary uses of heritage. In my museum and heritage studies course we have focused a lot on the Burra Charter. For those of you who don’t know, this has basically been the heritage go-to guide for conservation. It states that heritage conservation should do as much as necessary, but, as little as possible. This mentality has the potential to stifle creativity and can turn heritage sites from living to dead. Due to this, Lovell argued that this framework needs to be challenged as it does “not stand up to the breadth of heritage”.

Another interesting point raised by Lovell concerned statements of significance. He argued that they are static, fixed in time, and rarely re-visited. They should instead be dynamic and evolving with the changing use of the tangible heritage. Again, Lovell discussed the Burra Charter and highlighted how it lacks any meaningful discussion on values and transforming uses of heritage.

Considering we have analysed the Burra Charter in depth, it was incredibly interesting to consider its omissions and how it could be amended.

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2. Eric Hancock – “Quintet of Benefits from Conservation Training of Prisoners”

The aim of this paper was to evaluate the main benefits from training prisoners in conservation. To provide some background, National Trust Australia Western Australia branch partnered with Freemantle prison and offered these workshops to inmates. Rather than exploiting prisoners, this program equips them with skills that can help with finding future work. The quality of the conservation work undertaken by prisoners was very high. This has been attributed to the role of the heritage expert trainers.

What I also found to be an important point was that the prisoners were all genuinely interested in the history of the sites and their significance to the local community.

What really intrigued me about this talk was that it raised so many different issues. All of which I had never really thought about nor have we discussed them in class. This idea of how to define a heritage professional and who can undertake heritage work was at the forefront of my mind throughout the entire presentation.

3. Caroline Stokes— “Old Perth Boys’ School”

I particularly enjoyed this talk as I am currently researching object biographies. There was archaeological evidence discussed in the presentation including erasers, inkwells, and cricket balls. Although their individual biographies were not discussed, the overall history of the school provided some idea of social and cultural contexts.

When Stokes started discussing graffiti and inscriptions, however, there was a more obvious connection. It reminded me greatly of work by Dr Anne Clarke and Dr Ursula Frederick at the Quarantine Station in Sydney. By delving into inscriptions, object biographies can be formed and communicated. Knowing names, dates, etc. is a great way to delve into the past and construct narratives.

4. My Paper

My paper concerned the Commissariat Store Museum in Brisbane and their recently released audio guide. Last year I worked with others in the museum to uncover the hidden intangible stories within the building’s tangible structure. My paper summarized the processes we undertook in creating the audio guide as well as the challenges faced.

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If you would like more information on any of the talks comment below or send me a private message!

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