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The Framing of the Port Arthur Historic Site

Steen, A ORCID: 0000-0001-8483-4421 and King, S ORCID: 0000-0003-0041-0184 2020 , 'The Framing of the Port Arthur Historic Site', in D Kopec and AM Bliss (eds.), Place Meaning and Attachment: Authenticity, Heritage and Preservation , Routledge, New York, USA, pp. 56-70.

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Tasmania has a close and extended history with crime. It starts in 1803 with penal settlements of British convicts in the then-named Van Diemen’s 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 island’s criminal past have been inconsistent. A key expression of this variability is the former Port Arthur penal establishment.Port Arthur incarcerated recidivist convicts from 1830–1877. 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 Arthur’s 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 UNESCO’s “Australian Convict Heritage Properties” in 2010. While UNESCO’s interest is historical convictism, visitors also experience heritage of the site’s recent violence.This chapter takes as its quarry the contemporary framing of the historic site’s 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 Type: Book Section
Authors/Creators:Steen, A and King, S
Keywords: place, place attachment, Port Arthur historic site
Publisher: Routledge
DOI / ID Number:
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Copyright 2020 selection and editorial matter, Dak Kopec and Anna Marie Bliss; individual chapters, the contributors

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