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Title: The heritage industry and the slave trade: an analysis of the commemoration of the bicentenary of the abolition of the transatlantic slave trade at heritage sites in England and Wales
Author: Gwyn, Marian
ISNI:       0000 0004 5364 8839
Awarding Body: Bangor University
Current Institution: Bangor University
Date of Award: 2014
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This thesis asks why and how the bicentenary was commemorated in order to develop a tool kit of best practices for presenting contested histories. The study identifies that heritage professionals learned new skills in interpreting difficult histories and in engaging with new audiences. It also identifies that these gains were not subsequently embedded into how the heritage industry works. Data from interviews and site visits indicate that reasons for this include a lack of strategic topdown, cross-departmental commitment, the lack of cultural diversity within the workforce, heritage collections and sites that do not reflect the increasingly diverse population, and strong divisions between curators and practitioners. These issues were compounded at historic houses, especially those with close links with the original family - yet this research indicates that many of these are increasingly prepared to acknowledge their connections to the slave trade. The toolkit developed out of this research provides strategic guidance on organisational management to encourage compliance, on working with professional and community partners, and on effective ways of presenting difficult stories. Techniques include embedding multiple perspectives into the narrative, using heritage sites as safe spaces for group debate and by contextualising a difficult story to the broader history of the site, to the area and to its historical setting. Understanding the ways in which a story is contested is essential. This thesis identifies that the heritage industry is under threat; it needs to adapt how it works with its collections and with its visitors in order to attract new funding streams and new audiences. As part of an emerging public understanding of the darker aspects of colonial activities, there is now an active debate about the provenance and presentation of heritage collections. Through strategic and organisational changes, the heritage industry can respond to these challenges and present inclusive and sensitive narratives.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available