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'As you see it so it was'? Reconstructing historic built environments in the USA: the case of sites associated with George Washington

By Esther White


This study explores the nature, function and creation of in situ, three dimensional, full-scale reconstructions from both a professional archaeological and administrative vantage point. In situ, three-dimensional reconstructions are used at heritage sites throughout the world to interpret historical archaeological remains for visitors. This type of reconstruction is the most permanent and complete of the physical treatments used to interpret buildings that are no longer standing, presenting both great risk to the archaeological resource and the historical authenticity of the place, as well as the potential for enormous reward for both interpretation and education. This thesis analyzes criteria with potential to measure the success or failure of reconstructions and provide a broader understanding of how these buildings act as replacements for their vanished originals.\ud Due to the large universe of reconstructions, data from 11 archaeologically-based reconstructions, at five sites associated with George Washington were identified to guide the discussion. The critical histories of these sites provide a textured understanding of reconstructions, and the role they play in shaping and creating a visible constructed past at tourist sites.\ud The 11 Washington case studies are analyzed within a framework of statements from international restoration policies and national stricture guiding and shaping how reconstructions are created and how standing structures are assessed within the United States. This analysis looks at the entire history of the reconstruction, from its creation, to the present function and utilization of the building, relying upon a full understanding of the entire cultural history of the building and historic site to assess the reconstruction. Through this nuanced and detailed exploration, criteria are addressed and 14 emerge that appear to provide both a gauge for assessing completed reconstructions and a valid foundation to guide the decision-making process when heritage site administrators and managers discuss reconstruction as a means of interpretation

Publisher: University of Leicester
Year: 2008
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