Uncomfortable Truths and Hushed Silence: A Re-Examination of Interpretation and its Social Justice Role within Historic Preservation
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Type of Work160 p.
ProgramMA in Historic Preservation
RightsTo view a complete copy of this thesis please contact Goucher College Special Collections & Archives at firstname.lastname@example.org or (410) 337-6075.
Subjectshistoric preservation practices
National Park Service plantations
Critical Race Theory
Historic preservation -- Theses
Slavery -- United States -- Collective memory
Plantations -- Historic preservation
Critical race theory
If interpretation is to make connections between places, time, and people then historic preservation interpreters must comprehensively tell the story of places, events, objects, and ordinary and significant people associated with noble and not so noble sides of history. Historic cultural resources associated with uncomfortable truths are susceptible to “obliteration” and subject to the same issues of change as other resources. The passing of time and use, environmental conditions, climate change, social attitudes, new scholarship, and information that reveals hidden truths and secrets create the need to re-interpret. One of the most divisive if not the most divisive event in American history, chattel slavery, has to be re-presented with “contextualized” narrative that recognizes “particular” details of both the celebrated hero and enslaved people. This evaluation of how the lives of enslaved Africans and African Americans are being re-interpreted at eight colonial to antebellum period plantations - five National Park Service units and three private entities - models how perceived changes in the public memory of slavery is currently being presented. The result of the critical analysis of conservation treatments, narrative language, “bound and unbound,” and use of cultural arts and technology indicate to present relevant 21st Century presentations reflective of multiple social significances requires an interpretive-centered field of historic preservation. Using a theory-to-practice approach, guidelines for comprehensive presentations at plantations move interpretation to the center of historic preservation, incorporating the principle of change into the language of the instruments and practices of the field, making it replicable for other topics.