Heritage as Process: Constructing the Historical Child’s Voice Through Art Practice

TAYLOR, Rachel Emily (2018). Heritage as Process: Constructing the Historical Child’s Voice Through Art Practice. Doctoral, Sheffield Hallam University.

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Link to published version:: https://doi.org/10.7190/shu-thesis-00212


David Harvey describes heritage as a ‘process’ that is not inert and takes place in the present (2010). In heritage practices there are opposing discourses and positions. Artists add another voice to the discourses of heritage and have been described as ‘critical figure[s] in the heritage process’ (Howard, 1998) because they present institutional critique, craft new heritage, and open up ‘Authorised Heritage Discourse’ (Smith, 2006). The role of the artist in this process is explored through practice and the critique of works by artists, including: Corin Sworn, Andrea Fraser, and Danh Vo. This study challenges how art and artists are used in heritage practices, and proposes that artworks that have not been commissioned by heritage institutions can still be used to critique the processes of heritage. The study focuses on historical biographies at the Foundling Museum in London: a ‘museum of childhood’ (Harris, 2013). In current heritage practice, children are regarded as passive and their role is ‘obscured’ (Smith, 2013). In the Foundling Museum there is a tension of ownership that stems from the lack of separation between the histories of children and the history of childhood. Often, the adult voice is represented rather than that of the child. Children are often voice-less in the preservation of their history, as this process is generally undertaken by adults on behalf of the children or ‘perhaps for their childhood selves’ (Smith and Pascoe, 2013). Many scholars still fail to differentiate histories of children, which concern actual practices of young people, from histories of childhood that are ideological concepts adults hold of children. This study explores how the voice of the child might be ‘found’ or reconstructed, using art practice as a form of interrogation. The facilitation of workshops with contemporary children provided material to construct the historical child’s voice. The workshops explored the children’s empathetic engagement to the foundlings through role-play and art making; alongside examining the boundaries of freedom and control. Field notes were employed as a method of documentation and critical analysis when photography of children was not permitted due to ethical considerations. Finally, curation of situated artworks were employed as a method to test the communication of the historical voice in the museum.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Thesis advisor - Shaw, Becky [0000-0001-6835-6044]
Additional Information: Director of studies: Becky Shaw
Research Institute, Centre or Group - Does NOT include content added after October 2018: Sheffield Hallam Doctoral Theses
Identification Number: https://doi.org/10.7190/shu-thesis-00212
Depositing User: Colin Knott
Date Deposited: 18 Sep 2019 09:54
Last Modified: 03 May 2023 02:01
URI: https://shura.shu.ac.uk/id/eprint/25151

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