The Project and Its Purpose

I am currently a fifth-year graduate student in Cornell’s Ph.D. program in the History of Art, Archaeology and Visual Studies, and am in the early stages of my dissertation research.  This blog is part of a long-term project contributing to the research I do in preparation for my dissertation, in which I intend to focus on the National September 11th Memorial and Museum in New York City.

I will be exploring the controversies over the control of the site since 2001, with particular attention to the fact that a private foundation has maintained the site since the 9/11 attacks, in contrast to the National Park Service (NPS) control over other related sites and memorials.  I intend to look into the social, legal and economic differences that have resulted from NPS versus private control over this urban landscape of loss, commemoration, and healing, and how those differences have affected what has happened to the site.  Importantly, I am curious about how these varying approaches to control have affected the determination of which stakeholders’ stories of significance about the site have been incorporated into the designs for the Memorial and Museum.  I will be combining studies of preservation law, opportunities for community engagement, the active production of heritage narratives, the creation and selection of memory, the relationship between rehearsals of absence/loss and the process of using heritage narratives for healing, negotiating the complications of urban heritage sites, the intersections of private and public ownership of heritage sites and narratives in US law and culture, and how all of these factors manifest in the design of memorials and their associated museums.

Previously, my research had focused on World Heritage Sites and related policies for their curation and cultural resource management, particularly in terms of community involvement in the management and interpretation of sites, which followed earlier phases of research on sustainable tourism practices at cultural and heritage sites.  My goals for my dissertation project have clearly changed over time, during which period I did not keep up with posting on this blog; however, I intend to return to this project as a place to reflect on my research, and I am  taking this blog in a new direction that will better reflect my current research plans.  As of this writing in May of 2015, these goals will still incorporate elements of sustainable practices, tourism, and the maintenance of archaeological sites that I had explored in the earlier incarnation of this blog, but will also focus more significantly on material specifically tied to the topic of my dissertation.

Below is the description I had provided for the first stages of this blog, which I am leaving here as a relevant introduction to much of the material already posted on this site.  As I develop my research into new directions, I will update this page to continue to reflect my interests and the purposes of this project.

Preliminary Agenda for this Project

I originally started this blog as part of a project during my third year at Cornell in which I was gathering information on a series of World Heritage Sites and comparable destinations for cultural tourism in order to examine how these curated sites contribute to or complicate the revitalization and sustainable development of their host communities.

These processes involve using marketed spectacles based on art, architecture, history or natural features, along with narratives of international significance to attract visitors to previously struggling locations.  Sometimes, the reinterpretation of these locations as major destinations for culturally-minded tourists do indeed boost the local economy and provide new nodes for community pride; other times, the degree of success these sites can boast is complicated, as they may draw incredible amounts of international tourists and beneficial assistance in preservation or reconstruction work, but simultaneously raise new issues for the local infrastructure and community integrity.  Integral to the broad-spectrum success of these destinations is the dual development of community involvement in the narrative of significance for that destination and well-administered attention paid to the physical and socio-economic infrastructure of the region is a manner that emphasizes sustainability over the long term.

As understanding these issues involves comprehension of how cultural tourist sites are made into destinations, the difference between heritage tourism and other forms of cultural tourism, major debates over the legal framework for heritage, how heritage relates to identity narratives, and the requirements for sustainable development of a community surrounding a cultural tourism site, these topics all form subsets of the interests of this blog.  Additionally, examples of community involvement in historic sites, museums, heritage practices and other relevant institutions will be part of these studies, as experts in cultural policy and sustainable development both highly promote the necessity of such involvement for the long-term health of such areas.

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