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Appears in Collections:History and Politics Journal Articles
Peer Review Status: Refereed
Title: Science, value and material decay in the conservation of historic environments
Author(s): Douglas-Jones, Rachel
Hughes, John
Jones, Sian
Yarrow, Thomas
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Keywords: Value
Qualitative research
Science and technology
Issue Date: Sep-2016
Date Deposited: 8-Jul-2016
Citation: Douglas-Jones R, Hughes J, Jones S & Yarrow T (2016) Science, value and material decay in the conservation of historic environments. Journal of Cultural Heritage, 21, pp. 823-833.
Abstract: The historic environment undergoes cycles of material deterioration, and these processes have a powerful impact on the meanings and values associated with it. In particular, decay informs the experience of authenticity, as a tangible mark of age and ‘the real’. This article examines the intersection between material transformation, scientific intervention and cultural value. Drawing on qualitative social research at three Scottish historic buildings, we show that there are a complex range of cultural values and qualities associated with material transformation. Furthermore, we highlight how the use of science-based conservation to characterise, and intervene in, processes of material transformation can affect these values and qualities. We argue that it is necessary and important to consider the cultural ramifications of such interventions alongside their material effects. This requires a case-by-case approach, because the cultural values and qualities associated with material transformation are context-specific and vary with different kinds of monuments and materials. We conclude with a series of recommendations aimed at integrating humanities and science-based approaches to transformation in the historic environment.
DOI Link: 10.1016/j.culher.2016.03.007
Rights: © 2016 The Authors. Published by Elsevier Masson SAS. This is an open access article under the CC BY license (
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