Masters Thesis, World Heritage Site Interpretation

Having moments ago finished the stressful process of writing my masters thesis I felt compelled to post my abstract here for everyone to read before rushing to the library to read the full version, lol. Enjoy :D, Olly.

The interpretation of world heritage sites has often focused on certain aspects of significance at the expense of others, which are considered less important. This has frequently occurred where different perspectives lead to conflicting interpretations of a place. Two of the most frequently conflicting viewpoints are those of the scientific community and Indigenous communities. This research examines the language used in the publicly available literature from world heritage sites to determine whether they emphasise certain heritage values over others. It does this via an examination of Indigenous archaeological landscapes in the USA, Canada and Australia.

By using both qualitative and quantitative analytical techniques this research explores how the language used in interpretive materials at each of the world heritage sites presents conflicting viewpoints. Thematic analysis is used to determine the themes and language used by heritage managers to present both the scientific and social values of each landscape to the public. These themes are then quantified and analysed using content analysis and key-word-in-context to determine whether there is dominance in the use of either theme. This triangulation of methods has enjoyed only limited application in the analysis of interpretive heritage materials. The benefits of combining these techniques in a single analysis can be seen in the way that each technique highlights different approaches used by each place to present values to the public.

The results presented here indicate clear differences in the interpretation of world heritage sites. The interpretive material from the case study in the USA focuses specifically on two scientific values, while those from the Canadian case study place more emphasis on the social values of the landscape. With only a small set of samples from the Australian world heritage site analysed in this research, it is difficult to highlight any specific trends. Generally, the North American brochures encourage school and other education-orientated groups to their world heritage sites, something that has not been adopted in Australia, but which has great potential to increase visitation. By focussing on specific audiences, particularly schools due to the enactment of a new history curriculum in Australia, Indigenous heritage landscapes have the chance to implement a new generation of effective long-term interpretive programs. These programs can then be used to ensure that all Australians understand and appreciate the importance that these places have, not only to Indigenous communities, but all sections of society. 

By Olly

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