The consumption of heritage centres in Ireland, with particular reference to Wicklow's historic gaol
Breathnach, T.M. (2003) The consumption of heritage centres in Ireland, with particular reference to Wicklow's historic gaol. PhD thesis, Dublin City University.
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This thesis is concerned with the consumption of heritage centres in Ireland, and asks why and how visitors engage with the past there. To do this, it develops one heritage attraction, Wicklow’s Historic Gaol, as a case study. It questions critiques of heritage visiting that see it as a retreatist, nostalgic and inauthentic way of experiencing of the past, and presents an alternative conceptualisation that acknowledges the complexity of this activity. It discusses the role that various forms of identity may play in engaging with the past and re-considers the very concept of authenticity that is at stake in such experiences. Following Selwyn (1996) and Wang (1999, 2000) this thesis suggests that visitors may use heritage attractions as a vehicle to experience an 'authenticity of self.
In adopting Hall’s (1980) ‘Encoding/Decoding’ model of communication, the development of the case study includes the analysis of Wicklow’s Historic Gaol as a ‘text’, it’s production, consumption and the contexts which impact on both. Primary data was generated by conducting interviews with both exhibition organisers and visitors, by conducting a questionnaire survey of visitors, and by developing 'behavioural maps’ of visitors’ movements.
This thesis finds that preferred, negotiated and oppositional readings of the text emerge amongst visitor responses. These occur in relation to both class and cultural identities. This thesis also argues that aspects of these responses indicate that visitors seek to establish an authenticity of self both by engaging with the exhibitionary authenticities employed at the gaol, and by locating themselves in the past as it is represented there.
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