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The Framing of the Port Arthur Historic Site


Steen, A and King, S, The Framing of the Port Arthur Historic Site, Place Meaning and Attachment: Authenticity, Heritage and Preservation, Routledge, D Kopec and AM Bliss (ed), New York, USA, pp. 56-70. ISBN 9780367232689 (2020) [Research Book Chapter]

Copyright Statement

Copyright 2020 selection and editorial matter, Dak Kopec and Anna Marie Bliss; individual chapters, the contributors

DOI: doi:10.4324/9780367232689-5


Tasmania has a close and extended history with crime. It starts in 1803 with penal settlements of British convicts in the then-named Van Diemenís Land, and continues to this day with material connections in existent structures throughout the built environment. While this history has always had a physical presence, associations with the islandís criminal past have been inconsistent. A key expression of this variability is the former Port Arthur penal establishment.

Port Arthur incarcerated recidivist convicts from 1830Ė1877. After the prison was closed, the site underwent a total revision. A program of dissociation saw the area vacated and renamed, a new settlement constructed, and the prison left to ruin. In the late 1800s, however, the penal settlement became an established tourist destination; and as visits increased over the course of the twentieth century, a romanticized image formed around a violent history. Port Arthurís surviving structures were viewed as worthy of preservation.

Preparations for a World Heritage nomination began in 1995. A year later, the site was the scene of a massacre. A lone gunman, Martin Bryant, killed 35 people, and injured another 23. The nomination for World Heritage status was finally submitted in 2008, and Port Arthur was included on the register of UNESCOís "Australian Convict Heritage Properties" in 2010. While UNESCOís interest is historical convictism, visitors also experience heritage of the siteís recent violence.

This chapter takes as its quarry the contemporary framing of the historic siteís significance. It considers how a coherent but selective attachment to the criminality of the site has developed through fluctuating conditions. In so doing, it probes the affective dimensions motivating associations with history.

Item Details

Item Type:Research Book Chapter
Keywords:place, place attachment, Port Arthur historic site
Research Division:Built Environment and Design
Research Group:Architecture
Research Field:Architectural history, theory and criticism
Objective Division:Expanding Knowledge
Objective Group:Expanding knowledge
Objective Field:Expanding knowledge in built environment and design
UTAS Author:Steen, A (Dr Andrew Steen)
UTAS Author:King, S (Dr Stuart King)
ID Code:143335
Year Published:2020
Deposited By:Architecture and Design
Deposited On:2021-03-11
Last Modified:2021-04-08

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