A PLACE FOR A MEETING: THE REAL AND PERCEIVED Sam Matthams
The Real and the Percieved: by Sam Mathams
A PLACE FOR A MEETING: THE REAL AND PERCEIVED Sam Matthams How can a heritage site ensure that its chosen presented narrative will effectively appeal to the public at a subliminal level? With the cultural trends within the process of heritage commodification now dictating a shift from the once traditional museological exhibition of objects, the newly emerging desire for stimulating narratives means that the heritage presentation is less reliant upon the actual ability of curatorial display, but focusing instead on the manner in which a siteâ€™s message is conveyed. The following essay examines the structural composition of narrative implementation and the parameters that dictate its received meaning within its audience. The emphasis of the study is placed on identifying the key moments throughout the narrative process that initiate, converse and influence the relationship between a site and a visitorâ€™s internal realm. In considering the inherent relationship between site and visitor, the study begins within the fields of ethnographic and anthropologic analysis, where the connections between the tangible reality and internal processes are investigated. This is achieved by utilising theories based on a duality of space perception along with the influential aspects of tourist gaze construction. This theorised analysis is then realised contextually, providing a breakdown of the practices utilised to implement and sustain the involved interactions between the visitor and site, with scenarios framed within praxis models. Ulteriorly, the investigation culminates towards its case study, the National Trust property of Cotehele. The final section builds and develops upon strategic points that are raised throughout such narrative implementation. The conclusions of the study emphasise the complexity of the issues needed to be taken into account within the contemporary heritage interpretation process, especially when using narrative implementation as an added layer to the already existent physical realm.
Introduction The development of heritage sites with touristic intention has become a fast growing trend in the recent decades. However, with the consequent competition resulting between sites, curators are left trying to find ways to establish an identity that distinguishes their location within the expanding market. So how is this done, and when is it most successful? A cultural shift from the once traditional method of museological presentation towards an emerging desire for an engaging and stimulating narrative, establishes a discussion as to the inherent meaning behind the audience’s developing needs. By combining theories based on a dual reality - one tangible, the other self perceived - along with the premise of tourist gaze construction, an exploration into the interaction between the site and a visitor’s internal perception could identify where such desires stem and how they can be influenced or met. A structural breakdown of the implementation techniques used for the noted interaction, incorporating ethnographic and anthropological analyses, aims to extract the key moments within the narrative process, and highlight how a visitor can be engaged within an internal dialogue between site and senses. Utilising comparative models to assist in the contextualising of the developing theories, a final case study aims to amalgamate and crystalise the identified influential aspects found within the relationship between the site and its audience’s perception.
A Meeting of Two Worlds Heritage has successfully established itself as a prominent figure within the touristic marketplace, however, that marketplace has now become a crowded one.1 Consequently, with this ever-increasing competition, sites are striving to establish an individual foothold distinguishing them from the rest. This is no straightforward task, with a culmination of outside factors such as current cultural fashions, desirable activities and target audiences delegating how this is implemented. “In the presence of such trends, and amidst the monotony of global high capitalism, at a time when standardised products and services are marketed worldwide, there is an increasing demand for built environments that promise unique cultural experiences.” 2 1 Peter Howard, Heritage: management, interpretation, identity, (London: Continuum, 2003), p. 144. 2 Nezar AlSayyad, ‘Global Norms and Urban Forms in the Age of Tourism: Manufacturing Heritage, Consuming Tradition’, in Nezar AlSayyad, (ed.), Manufacturing Heritage: Global Norms and Urban Forms in the Age of Tourism, A PLACE FOR A MEETING: THE REAL AND PERCIEVED Sam Matthams
With heritage tourism effectively developing into this experience led industry, it is evident that the reasoning for this increasing demand relates to the contemporary tourist’s emerging needs. Focus has now shifted from an emphasis on traditional material presentation, to a situation where the heritage consumers are perusing ‘feelings not products.’3 With tangible entities dwindling in appeal, a new sense of understanding place is desired. Peter Groote and Tialda Haartsen reinforce this comment by stating that within the current market ‘what is consumed is not so much the heritage itself, in the form of, for example, a building or a cultural landscape, but its representation.’4 The trending characteristic of spatial representation within the postmodern heritage practice of interpretation has led to a fusion of the visible with the metaphorical. With the visible and physical presence of a heritage site being itself a fixed entity governed by conservation and management legislation, it is therefore within the metaphorical realm that the capability to increase a site’s distinguishability lies. ‘Stories are seen as the link between audience and spirit of place, the key to unlocking what is special about each property.’5 It is this narrative, this chosen interpretation of place that will convey the emotive character of the property, one which the material objects cannot convey by themselves. Such relations unite the tangible element with a conceived imagery, immersing what is visual within an atmospheric setting, stemming additional realities in which the visitors are implored to engage, all within their own internal realm. The ability to relate to an individual on this level allows a deeper connection than that of just a visual appreciation of space. It instills a sense of understanding which unites its visitor’s imagination with the physical entity itself. So what processes happen within this relationship to establish such a bond? The consumption of these spaces is vital for the continued existence of heritage as a touristic commodity, and yet the mode of such consumption remains relatively underanalysed.6 A key informing factor throughout this process is how the site’s narrative relates to its audience members within their internal reality and how these relationships behave.7 It is whatever touches the (London: Routledge, 2001), p. 2. 3 Birgit Trauer, ‘Conceptualizing special interest tourism – frameworks for analysis’, in C. Ryan, S. Page, A Morrison, (eds.), Tourism Management 27, (London: Elseiver, 2006), p. 183. 4 Peter Groote, Tialda Haartsen, ‘The Communication of Heritage: Creating Place Identities’, in Brian Graham, Peter Howard, (eds.), Ashgate Research Companion to Heritage and Identity, (Aldershot: Ashgate Publishing Ltd, 2008), p. 181. 5 Rachel Hunt, ‘Finding the thread: Telling stories at Cotehele, in Charlie Mansfield, Simon Seligman, (eds.), Narrative and the Built Heritage. Papers in Tourism Research, (Saarbrücken, VDM Verlag Dr. Müller GmbH & Co. KG, 2011), p. 164. 6 John Urry initiated an in-depth analysis into the sociological effect surrounding tourist behavior. This then led to increased research in the field, as pointed out in Adrian Franklin’s The Tourist Gaze and beyond: An interview with John Urry (pages 118-120). This under analysed aspect is also briefly mentioned within John Urry, Consuming Places, (London: Routledge, 1995), p. s1. 7 The way in which these relationships behave refers to how a site’s narrative interacts with already present cultural perceptions within a visitor’s personal schemata, and how this can affect, as well as be affected by such a 5
visitors’ personality, their experience and their ideals which creates the overriding factor and distinguishes one site from the rest.8 In acknowledgement of this statement then, it is wise to try to understand the inner workings within a visitor’s personal realm. Within the fields of sociology, anthropology and ethnographic investigation, processes pertinent to the framing of place perception within human behavior can be identified. John Urry set forth the investigation into personal perception of place within his classic study, The Tourist Gaze, thus stemming a multitude of sociological analyses into the concept of influential settings and staged perspectives. Within this research, he identifies how tourism and place viewing as a whole are heavily reliant on the consumption of images. 9 This facilitates the notion of space impacting an individual’s perception by utilising visual keys in order to stimulate and satisfy their anticipation. The presence of visible cues when meaningfully placed, allows the audience to appreciate and identify with the subject for personal fulfillment or gain. In relation to heritage presentation, such views occupy the curator’s envisaged construct. To instill such cues, albeit through discernable guidance, allows chosen perspectives to impact upon the audience. However, this is not to say that the gaze is only a single entity of visual connection, to presume this would only be looking skin deep at the presentation of heritage and tourism as a whole. “To talk of tourist space as if it were a single form of spatial production would only underplay the complexities involved in both its conceptualisation at a theoretical level and its realisation in specific forms.” 10 The underlying ethnographic and anthropological processes amounting to and highly influencing the gaze itself, determine the resulting outcome for the visitor. According to this, it would be feasible to say that ‘the gaze is not the end point of consumption, but one element in the creation of personal narratives that order and shape experience.’11 It is accountable that the gaze is a highly significant factor within the structure of visit experience. This will continue to be called upon throughout the present essay. In addition, the way in which the desire to gaze is instilled, along with its visiting public’s reception, can be identified as playing an equally important role. John Caughey, American cultural anthropologist12, furthers Urry’s gaze by encasing it within separate realms of perception. He expresses that people live within two distinct worlds: narrative. 8 Freeman Tilden, Interpreting Our Heritage, (Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, 1975), p. 11. 9 John Urry, sociologist and cultural theorist, established such processes in The Tourist Gaze (1990), as well as Consuming Places (1995). 10 Kevin Meethan, Tourism in Global Society: place, culture, consumption, (Basingstoke: Palgrave, 2001), p. 39. 11 Meethan, Tourism in Global Society: place, culture, consumption, p. 85. 12 John Caughey theorised upon American cultural issues of actuality in the 1970s. Although these issues would not have been intrinsically pertinent to the U.K. at the time, in the decades since, globalisation led to the attributes and cultures highlighted within Caughey’s theory to become ever more prominent influences throughout Westvern society as a whole. A PLACE FOR A MEETING: THE REAL AND PERCIEVED Sam Matthams
“On the one hand, they find themselves in the ‘real’ world, an empirically measurable reality, defined by time and place. On the other hand, there is a world of imagination, an interconnected complex of fantasies, daydreams and stories.”13
The first, the real world, coincides with the visual elements of the constructed gaze as mentioned by Urry. These are focused on intended views, thoughtful placements and influential situations. ‘The gaze is constructed through signs, and tourism involves a collection of signs.’14 These are the tangible elements from which the gaze is instilled, created through subliminal signals or directional interaction, all contributing to the overall presentational effect of the experience. The second world within Caughey’s analysis emphasises the expression and impact of the gaze. It is a deeply connected construct of personal thoughts and processes: ‘This area of inner experience, “daydreaming” or the “stream of consciousness,” is a pervasive dimension of human experience.’15 Within this secondary reality, sheltered from external judgment, a free rein of personal dialogues, stimulated visions and fantasies, all play persuasive roles within a person’s perception of space. These psychological processes utilise the gaze by allowing visual elements to speak to the visitor, from which they can project scenarios, ultimately informing a relationship with the corresponding space. It is within this particular relationship that the visitor’s perceptions are forged and where the curator’s staging of such views can be influential. The relevance of these two worlds within the presentation of heritage, in conjunction with the gaze, is central to the audience’s overall response to the site. When the two worlds meet both the visual elements and the experiential narrative combine, each supporting the other by uniting internal dialogues within the facilitating structure of the heritage itself: everything within this amalgamated construct interconnects and flows harmoniously. However, if these worlds fail to coincide, an internal space within the subconscious is left unfulfilled, resulting in a feeling of discontent that resides within the visitor: the site has not lived up to its expectations. 13 Stijn Reijnders, ‘Places of the imagination: an ethnography of the TV detective tour’, http://cgj.sagepub.com/ cgj/content/abstract/17/1/37, [accessed 28th October 2012], p. 40. 14 John Urry, The Tourist Gaze, (London: Sage Publications Ltd, 1990), p. 3. 15 John Caughey, Imaginary Social Worlds: A Cultural Approach, (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1984), p. 120. 7
It is the entirety of this relationship between the real and the internal realm, assisted significantly by the gaze (see Figure 2), which dictates what the audience’s lasting perceptions of a space will be. Stuart Hall is strengthening the parameters of this process through his own observations, stating that: ‘It is by our use of things, and what we say, think and feel about them – how we represent them – that we give them a meaning.’16 The power of the relationship noted above, is extremely significant and reliant upon each element (the real, the internal and the gaze) to fulfill their particular roles. Although the extent of the gaze has come into question by such theorists as Simon Abrams and Gerard Delanty17, a point also raised within Kevin Meethan’s Tourism in Global Society, within the construct of this argument, the application of the gaze in conjunction with Caughey’s theory facilitates the elements critiqued to be nonexistent within Urry’s analysis. ‘The gaze is important, but this is only one element, it is not the end point, nor the sole underlying casual factor.’18 Without the gaze, a narrative would be void of relatable sustenance. Without the real, there is no gaze, and without the imaginary, there is just a view.
16 Stuart Hall, ‘Introduction’, in Stuart Hall, (ed.), Representation: Cultural Representations and Signifying Practices, (London: Sage, 1997), p. 3. 17 S. Abrams, J. Waldren, D.V. MacLeod, (eds.), Tourists and Tourism: identifying with people and places, (Oxford: Berg, 1997) and G. Delanty, Social Science: Beyond constructivism and realism, (Buckingham: Open University Press, 1997). 18 Meethan, Tourism in Global Society: place, culture, consumption, p. 88. A PLACE FOR A MEETING: THE REAL AND PERCIEVED Sam Matthams
Figure 2: A diagram illustrating the connection between the real and the internal realm, facilitated by the gaze. This connection is the priority of the present essay: Composition by Sam Mathams
In conclusion to this section, we have established that narratives as an entity can easily diffuse and interact within our inner world. Their presence can be highly influential, constructing fantasies and scenarios, tied within the story of the place. The structural composition of a narrative however spreads far beyond the boundaries of a heritage siteâ€™s physical domain. The conversion of this theorised process into a strategy capable of being implemented to attain such results depends upon the understanding of applicable behavioral trends within heritage commodification. To understand how a user interacts with a space, both physically and mentally, analysis therefore should not be entirely tied to a site. Instead, a more holistic approach should be implemented, establishing a wide base of knowledge from which to build upon. It is only from well-informed foundations that a successful dialogue can stem.
Strategic Implementation â€“ The Constructed Meeting and its Praxis Models The progressional transfer from Urry and Caugheyâ€™s theoretical understanding 9
towards a realised scenario relies upon the ability to build a distinctive relationship between a site and its audience. The construction of this is pivotal: encompassing what is already established (the site and its assets), with a distinguishing atmosphere. There are a multitude of ways to combine the two, and yet, success is a finite process. Ultimately, the entire intention is to induce a convergence of the two worlds, as discovered by Caughey. It is where and how this relationship is implemented, which will inevitably dictate how a site is perceived. When attempting to initiate such processes the outcome of a site’s success relies heavily on the ability of the curators to understand their audience: “We start with one question. “Who are these people and what do they want?” The answer controls everything we do. We respond to the emotional and psychological desires of our visitors.” 19 The basis for all conscious attempts at successful curation should inevitably begin with the investigation of its audience’s cultural values, for it is these individuals that a site strives to cater for. However, due to the expanse of different cultures and sub-cultures present throughout modern day society, to survey an entire spectrum of people would not only take enormous effort and time, but it would yield a minimal amount of conclusive data. ‘People of different sub groups and societies live in different worlds because their systems of knowledge are fundamentally different.’20 Therefore, to comprehend the inner workings of its prospective audience and to uncover a route into their persuasive dimensions, a target audience must be attained, thus narrowing the field of play. This can either be decided via the already established image of the site, taking into account to whom it would relate to best, or this target audience could stem from an aspiration to cater for a certain clientele. This distinction, a segregation of a cultural body, extracts identifying key traits that can then be reinterpreted on site, influencing its projected persona. ‘Elements are drawn from cognitive schemata in the culture to which the dreamer has been enculturated.’21 Trending fashions, popular activities, and modern modes of enjoyment within selected groups are in a way quantified, instilled for the purposes of creating a targeted draw. As already established within the previous section, with numerous sites competing for a distinctive place within the sea of commodified heritage, a vast array of site personas can be encountered, spanning a wide spectrum within the tourist market, each with its own agenda.
19 Steve Wynn, quoted by Edward Hollis, The Secret Lives of Buildings, (London: Portobello Books Ltd, 2009), p. 319. 20 Caughey, Imaginary Social Worlds: A Cultural Approach, p. 10. 21 Caughey, Imaginary Social Worlds: A Cultural Approach, p. 83. A PLACE FOR A MEETING: THE REAL AND PERCIEVED Sam Matthams
“It may appear, therefore, that patterns of consumption, while appearing to offer some notions of choice and hence individual control, may actually be no more than the working out of broader structural trends within society.” 22 This calculated segregation of the market, although seemingly elitist on the outset merely aims to concentrate the efforts of the curator to one attainable point in the spectrum. This throws up a debate as to whether it is best to attempt to cater for a wider market, but running the possibility of never actually fulfilling any certain desires, or to focus on a single or small collection of groups, and center the attention towards an easier to quantify market. However this debate cannot be elaborated upon here.23 Once such a market has been selected, it is then time to establish a definitive connection between place and audience. The overall presentation of spatial experience, in short, relies on two tactical stages of interaction. The first stage remains external, rooted to the site yet never within it. The second stage sits internally, tied to the tangible product and in direct relation to the physicalities of the space. Both are intrinsically linked with Caughey and Urry’s aforementioned theories, striving to create the personal connection. The first stage is the outreaching persona of the site. In order for a place to serve its prospective audience, they must first be drawn to its gates, so it is from here that a direct interaction begins.
The Constructed Meeting Collin Campbell states that ‘covert day dreaming and anticipation are processes central to modern consumerism.’24 Within the realms of the imagination, desires are created and played out. The acknowledged impact of this anticipation is reiterated by Urry, by identifying that: 22 Meethan, Tourism in Global Society: place, culture, consumption, p. 74. 23 An in-depth analysis into such debates can be read within the following: D. Kuban, ‘Conservation of the historical environment for cultural services’, in R. Holod, (ed.), Conservation as Cultural Survival, (Istanbul: The Age Khan Award for Architecture, 1978). Gregory Ashworth, Peter Howard, European Heritage Planning and Management, (Exeter: Intellect Books, 1999). Kevin Meethan, Tourism in Global Society: place, culture, consumption, (Basingstoke: Palgrave, 2001). Nezar AlSayyad, ‘Global Norms and Urban Forms in the Age of Tourism: Manufacturing Heritage, Consuming Tradition’, in Nezar AlSayyad, (ed.), Manufacturing Heritage: Global Norms and Urban Forms in the Age of Tourism, (London: Routledge, 2001). Dell Upton, ‘‘Authentic’ Anxieties’, in Nezar AlSayyad, (ed.), Manufacturing Heritage: Global Norms and Urban Forms in the Age of Tourism, (London: Routledge, 2001). 24 Collin Campbell, The Romantic Ethic and Spirit of Modern Consumerism, (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1987), as quoted by Urry, The Tourist Gaze, p. 13. 11
“Places are chosen to be gazed upon because there is an anticipation, especially through daydreaming and fantasy, of intense pleasures, either on a different scale, or involving different senses from those customarily encountered.” 25 The impact of this initial spark, as we now comprehend, is reliant upon its ability to identify with the imbedded personal schemata of its audience. Their cognitive culture, their base of perception is utilised as kindling. ‘If there is some good inflammable stuff, it will catch fire.’26 So how is this anticipation practically instilled? The physical manifestation capable of creating this anticipation, this desire to visit, can be implemented through the same processes that are exhibited throughout the expanse of modern cultural commodities. ‘Such anticipation is constructed and sustained through a variety of non-tourist practices, such as film, T.V, literature, magazines, records and videos, which construct and reinforce that gaze.’27 Through these edited snapshots and poetic ideologies, apparently unique experiences are assembled in an appealing framework, designed to spark related daydreams, creating anticipation. These images, whether they feature on a pamphlet, a brochure, sign or an advertisement, do not simply remain on their fixed display. On the contrary, they invade an individual’s personal imagery systems,28 utilising the media to create direct routes into a person’s internal realm. The prolific nature of this invasion flows throughout our everyday life so habitually that it now goes predominantly unnoticed by our glancing eyes. ‘It is hard to envisage the nature of contemporary tourism without seeing how such activities are literally constructed in our imagination through advertising and the media.’29 These figures, these cultural cues infiltrate day to day processes, amalgamating and influencing the anticipations of place. However inevitably, these are left up to the person’s inner realm to decipher, with their perceptions constructing what they want from them. Ultimately, the person is viewing the product through their own eyes, not that of the interpreter. 30 Thus, the making of this initial interaction is a highly volatile entity. From hereafter, it is then up to the physical stem of these external projections to live up to its instilled persona, which is to be the second and most decisive interaction. The expectations created within this initial stage establish not only a site’s metaphorical character, but also the structure in which it is to be viewed: ‘these include expectations, desires and wants, ideas of what is important to view and record, to maintain and discard.’31 25 Urry, The Tourist Gaze, p. 3. 26 Tilden, Interpreting our Heritage, p. v. 27 Urry, The Tourist Gaze, p. 3. 28 Caughey, Imaginary Social Worlds: A Cultural Approach, p. 243. 29 Urry, The Tourist Gaze, p. 13. 30 Tilden, Interpreting our Heritage, p. 14. 31 Meethan, Tourism in Global Society: place, culture, consumption, p. 88. A PLACE FOR A MEETING: THE REAL AND PERCIEVED Sam Matthams
These are what the subject feels as being crucial to the visit, establishing an internal plan, reliant on imagined aspects coming to fruition within the site. The buildup cannot overshadow the event. To do so would disjoint the two worlds and any other aspects of the individual’s perception. ‘The disorientation that sometimes accompanies the transition between these realities can be usefully compared to “culture shock.”’32 The distortions perceived within the reality contrasting with the personal realm inherently lead to disparities between what was anticipated and what was received. Therefore, to harmoniously unite both real and perceived encounters, the two stages of interaction (anticipation and real experience) must revolve around the initial underpinning analysis of the target audience. As already noted, it is through the understanding of the personal traits and internal dialogues that a structured discourse can establish, with the user’s fantasies inhabiting its framework. How the users understand the premise of the site prepares them for what they may or hope to encounter.
Praxis Models What follows is a brief overview of the varying forms of narrative implementation that can be established upon a site. Each is only successfully applicable under certain conditions, and in such, provides inherent attributes enhancing the narrative and site. Although some are not heritage in the conventionally accepted sense, the models have been chosen as they clearly demonstrate different techniques or modes of anticipation and communication, uniting all three elements: the real, the gaze and the imaginary, within the construct of a site’s atmosphere. The four models display the full spectrum of scenarios, as shown in Figure 3. They have been differentiated as follows: - The Authentic Interpreted - The Inauthentic Superposed onto the Authentic - The Inauthentic Creating the Impression of Authenticity - The Inauthentic Leading to Authenticity
32 Caughey, Imaginary Social Worlds: A Cultural Approach, p. 106. 13
Figure 3: A diagram illustrating the full spectrum of scenarios, each progressing into the next: Compositionby Sam Mathams. The design has been developed from ideas read within Meethan, Tourism in Global Society: place, culture, consumption, pp. 90-113; also within Howard, Heritage: management, interpretation, identity, (London: Continuum, 2003), pp. 53-100.
A PLACE FOR A MEETING: THE REAL AND PERCIEVED Sam Matthams
The Authentic Interpreted – Religious Sites Steeped in religious traditions, spaces such as these maintain strong spiritual connotations. The opening up of these sites, such as that of Buckfast Abbey, disperses any preconceived barriers that visitors of alternative or non-religious backgrounds may harbor in regards to acceptance within such places, thus allowing a non-restrictive audience to pursue lines of intrigue. These sites are not sold on a promise to feel something, instead they are maintained as a place for appreciation, whether this is of religious, symbolic, artistic, or architectural nature. Religious heritage sites do however house extremely effective instances where the two realms detected by Caughey’s theory, converge. “Some churches […] have developed a masterstroke of interpretation, which is the practice of lighting a candle. This invitation to use the church for its spiritual purpose by remembering someone may not, strictly, be live interpretation, but very cleverly manages to link the church building with the visitor’s most personal life.” 33 The expression of such a deeply emotive act and allowing it to be visually placed within this setting, establishes extremely strong internal bonds with the site. The gaze is the uniting element, allowing an intimate association between gesture and place. ‘All good interpretation aims at such a connection.’34
Where the Inauthentic is Superposed onto the Authentic – The Baantjer Tour The Baantjer Tour, located in Amsterdam, follows along in the footsteps of the popular detective series Baantjer, traversing the city streets in pursuit of the real life sets in which the memorable scenes were filmed. The defining aspect within this scenario is that the audience already has an affinity with the narratives created within the show. The reason to visit is out of pure fascination, to live within the space of a fantasy. Within these spaces, it is up to the audience to retreat back into the fictional show, and let it project in front of them. ‘By temporarily suspending their reason and giving fantasy free rein, these tourists are, briefly, on holiday in their own story.’35 What conventionally represents a church wall, a pub or the red light district, is re-imagined into sites such as murder scenes, favoured drinking haunts and a particular infamous street. All are draped in recognisable narratives by the audience themselves, thus transforming the spaces into deeply relatable scenes from within their own constructed memory. 33 Howard, Heritage: management, interpretation, identity, p. 260. 34 Howard, Heritage: management, interpretation, identity, p. 260. 35 Reijnders, ‘Places of the imagination: an ethnography of the TV detective tour’, p. 49. 15
The Inauthentic Creating the Impression of Authenticity – Williamsburg Williamsburg, situated in Virginia, U.S.A, represents, in short, a 301-acre open-air museum, housing over one hundred restored and reproduced 18th century buildings.36 This vast reconstruction of an important colonial town already elicits a significant appeal within modern heritage trends. However, upon arrival, the visitor is thrown amidst the action succumbing to a participating role. The museumesque presentation of objects is enveloped by a living entity. Actors, stories, and props culminate to create a three-dimensional atmosphere, engulfing its audience’s senses. ‘Imaginary social relationships are subjectively compelling. Experiences in fantasies, memories, dreams, and media involvements are often more engrossing than actual social encounters.’37 Within this interactive setting both worlds are merged openly and visually with the visitor. Free dialogues can be created, opinions voiced, all leading to a sense of choice. The play can unfold how the user wants it to, with engagement at all levels, allowing the visitor to choose the pace at which to explore.
The Inauthentic Leading to Authenticity – Disneyland Disneyland is the tangible embodiment of an imagined entity, born from the success of well-loved fictional characters and narratives. Although it is an entirely authentic twentiethcentury theme park, inauthenticity is rife from within, from falsified organic scenarios, forced perspectives, and its centerpiece, a 77ft cement and fiberglass castle modeled upon that of Sleeping Beauty. However, all of this is accepted and enjoyed, and it is increasingly becoming part of the cultural heritage of all who have or aspire to visit. With its numerous narratives’ existence spanning decades, the characters and themes not only belong to the children that still watch the shows, but also to a fantastic past that adults can grasp with their imaginations.38 Childhood memories from all ages can be rekindled, reigniting long forgotten fantasies of magic and princesses. With the site’s expression of its life undoubtedly emotively linked alongside that of its visitors, the reliving of a relationship produced between a story and an internal fantasy is enjoyed within a real but still fantastical form. From the models shown, along with the identified practical implementation of constructed narratives, the widening influences affecting such a process can be seen to be heavily reliant upon its structural composition from the immediate outset. The fickle nature of success 36 Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, ‘That the Future May Learn from the Past’, http://www.history.org/foundation/mission.cfm [accessed 28th December 2012]. 37 Caughey, Imaginary Social Worlds: A Cultural Approach, p. 242. 38 Umberto Eco, Travels in Hyperreality, (London: Harcourt, 1986), p. 43. A PLACE FOR A MEETING: THE REAL AND PERCIEVED Sam Matthams
depends upon its ability to comprehend the vast complexities involved within the differing market segments, as personal perceptions vary dramatically depending on each individual’s enculturation. The creation of anticipation in relation to a subject’s internal perception is somewhat easier to comprehend than that of the relationships established once on site. Therefore an in-depth look into the latter, as found within the particular model of Cotehele, aims to distill these connective elements, bringing this explorative analysis to its conclusive moment.
Case Study: Cotehele, A National Trust Property Situated at the heart of its 1,320-acre estate, Cotehele stands proudly overlooking the River Tamar. Although stemming back to medieval origins, the majority of its currently presented state dates back to the Tudor period. Owned by the Edgcumbe family for over 600 years, it has undergone major developments throughout its life, with most of what is displayed today being from the 16th and 17th century. It is furnished with a vast array of antiquities, ranging from tapestries to armor, furniture to curiosities, however, all is not as it seems. Cotehele’s past is unconventional for a site of its stature. Used only intermittently throughout stages of its life, it evidently became a store for the disused furniture and possessions from the Edgcumbe family’s main home on Mt Edgcumbe, 15 miles away. It was only later on in its life that the objects that had accumulated here were realised for their worth. “In the eighteenth century the [Edgcumbe] family stayed at Cotehele only intermittently and rarely […] Gradually the Georgian owners came to regard the strange old house as a specimen of antiquarian interest and virtue and the long- neglected rooms as curiosities.”39 From this awakening, the Edgcumbe family endeavored to exploit the embedded antiquarian ambience by creating a high-class ‘visitors experience’ through furnishing and refurnishing the rooms with eclectic collections.40 It was these main influential owners who had the intention through recreating Cotehele to achieve an 18th century traditional museological display of objects. When the National Trust became custodian of Cotehele in 1947, although this imbedded motif carried through, its history was severely hindered by lost records, and contradicting tales. 41
39 James Lees Milne, People and Places, (London: John Murray, 1992), as quoted by Hunt, ‘Finding the thread: Telling stories at Cotehele, in Narrative and the Built Heritage. Papers in Tourism Research, p. 165. 40 Lewis Eynon, ‘Statement of Significance’, in The Significance of Cotehele, (National Trust publication, 22 April 2011). 41 National Trust, Cotehele: Property Business Plan 2013-16, (September 2012), p. 25. 17
Figure 5: Cotehele’s Hall, furnished in an array of antique armory, furniture and animal busts. by Sam Mathams
With today’s current trends desiring emotive and relatable schemes, and the estate’s past Figure 4: Cotehele in it’s setting: by Sam Mathams
sitting within a patchy framework, the challenging task to tie objects obtained initially for touristic purposes, into an emotively provoking narrative, leaves an extensive void for the curator to fill. A further problem arises from this antiquarian scenario, as the visiting public’s perception regarding the nature of the house’s appearance can be easily mistaken. The anticipation of a family home envisaged within the logical minds of its visitors can be misguided, when in fact the house’s residence was only intermittent. In fact, the honest history of its current effects can be intrinsically tied to the same process that brought the visitors themselves to the site: that is, tourism (see Figure 6). The disparities between the idealised and the truth, when identified, can cause a deterioration of the inner fantasies pictured to dwell within the space. ‘On realising the answer […] some visitors become disengaged; perhaps because they want a story rather than a series of truths.’42 Visions of life are stripped, replaced instead by images of people carrying out the same touristic exercise as what they themselves are partaking in. Therefore, an alteration in the site’s presentation needed to be made. It is at this stage that Cotehele differs it’s approach from a preconceived display by establishing its own crafted expression of its heritage. The recently founded curatorial intentions within the estate are to transmit this past in all its details, creating an honest but engaging approach to the rich tales and relics residing within the house’s walls. From this basis, it is the aim of the present case study to analyse the contrast between the previous narrative, ‘Bogus’ (which stemmed the change in relations) and the current theme, ‘Life in the Past Lane’. ‘Bogus’, in short, picked upon items within each room, highlighting the irregularities between décor and furnishings, and the curiosities instilled between them. By detailing their obscurity, and relating their circumstances to the wider arrangement, it presented these ‘bogus’ items as creations and installations, presented with the main intention of enhancing the tourist appreciation in the 18thC. This focus on the material creation of Cotehele is distinctly contrasted against the current theme, ‘Life in the Past Lane’, which instead focused on establishing a connection between the house’s rooms and one of their most notable residents, enshrining each room with its own interesting slot in the family’s history. The information that can be gained from the comparison between these two distinct examples aims to contextualise many defining points raised within the previous sections. This will be illustrated within the following research method and analysis.
42 Hunt, ‘Finding the thread: Telling stories at Cotehele, in Narrative and the Built Heritage. Papers in Tourism Research, p. 173. 19
Figure 6: A 19th century illustrated tourist guide for Cotehele, by Nicholas Condy, created for the â€˜high classâ€™ visitor. The house is conveyed through detailed perspectives of each room, combined with a descriptive account and house plans.
Research Method: Content Analysis of Cotehele’s ‘Intranet’ and ‘Internal Use’ Data With access to Cotehele’s visitor information programs (Intranet) along with visitor comment cards (all analysed on site), the site’s internal data analysis is to be supported with the essays own developed questionnaire, as shown in Appendix 1. This was completed by two parties: the volunteers and also the house and collections manager, both of which are not included within the ‘in-house’ data analysis, only supporting the latter with further evidence.43 From the results obtained, issues such as the alteration of a narrative’s focus from material awareness to the ‘lived in’ aspect of the house, as well as practical implementation techniques and their responses, can be holistically compared, creating an over-all, comprehensive view of the narrative’s effect, both from the interpreter’s and the visitor’s point of view. From analysing the responses gained from this investigation, it is evident, although not surprisingly, that the progression from the presentation of objects has not been an easy transition for the curators at Cotehele. With its past expression sat firmly with the intention of object presentation, the reconnecting of humanistic elements throughout the house, as with ‘Life in the Past Lane’, has provided inherent difficulties. “Talking engagingly about the characters is easy enough, but keeping them to the confines of a room is hard […] It is much easier to curate an exhibition or a theme based on tangibles.”44 The actual curation of theme tying already viewable objects together is inherently more manageable than that involving the complexities of historical characters, however from the stance of the ‘on the ground’ conveyance methods, the ability to engagingly relate the chosen theme to its audience shows that the opposite is true. “The theme [Life in the Past Lane] is a very human one and as such it is fairly easy to engage the interest of visitors and enable them to better appreciate why the house is as it is and to feel more connected to the past.”45 Furthering this personal response, and reinforcing what was stated within the previous section of the present essay, A Meeting of Two Worlds, it is seen that from this perspective, the lived history of the site assists in instilling character within the house, in a way that it is difficult to convey through information about furniture and architecture. ‘Emotions are 43 Original plans were made to question the visiting public to ascertain the reason behind the visit, and whether or not the site has fulfilled their expectations. However this was not achievable due to the house’s closure during the winter months. Festive activities had been scheduled for the Christmas program, but as these would not correlate with the implemented narrative of the house, the new altered approach was devised. Nevertheless, the used content analysis is supported by two questionnaires, as found in Appendix 1. 44 Extracted from a Cotehele questionnaire reply. 45 Extracted from a Cotehele questionnaire reply. 21
Figure 7: Chart showing the elements that impacted positively upon a visitorâ€™s experience, as evident from the statements contained in the visitor comment cards analysed at Cotehele. Negative impacts are displayed in Appendix 2.
A PLACE FOR A MEETING: THE REAL AND PERCIEVED Sam Matthams
concerned more with people and events than with objects.’46 It is a more direct route into the inner fantasies that can inhabit a room. In the eyes of a visitor, a bed may just be a bed, but who slept in it, the personal ambience surrounding it, provides a much more provoking image. The human touch and character embellishes upon the fixed and static. This contradicting scenario between the curate and relate stances is however not an uncommon matter for heritage interpretation. ‘The curators of publicly owned houses have the more difficult job of staging a play in which the main actors are no longer available to perform.’47 For Cotehele, if the visitors engage more readily with the presence of even a tenuous family narrative, which supports the earlier noted trending theories within modern heritage interpretation, this is where the intrigue lies, and the capability to relate to its audience within their inner realm becomes easier to achieve. To fulfill this means admitting the fact that the past may be patchy, but as Rachel Hunt states: ‘Imagination guides us through the darkness of the distant past. For many of us, the darker it is, the brighter the light of our imagination burns.’48 The ability to feed this inner realm and to expand upon that which is viewed, furthers the experiences that can be obtained from Cotehele and it has become evident within the data collected that this elaboration is well established (see Figure 7). The combination of self guided tours and that of the input from the volunteer room guides allows visitors to divulge their inner fantasies in whichever mode they prefer. However, the analysed data revealed as being evident that one specific interaction seems to outweigh the rest. A recognised and important component of conveying successfully chosen narratives, is the human agent. The undeniable importance of the volunteer room guides infinitely enhances the received experience for nearly all who visit. This volunteer base, not just within Cotehele, but also throughout the National Trust as a whole, extends back to its foundations, with its three founders being just that. At Cotehele, between nine and twelve guides are needed to adequately cover the eleven main showrooms on a daily basis. As one such guide responded: ‘the room guides are in a unique position to study in depth what casual visitors can only skim through.’49 This vast array of knowledge is invaluable when interacting with visitors. They are ‘engaged in the work of revealing, to such visitors as desire the service, something of beauty and wonder, the inspiration and spiritual meaning that lie behind what the visitor can with his senses perceive.’50 Their ability to provoke and immerse a visitor interest with interrelated stories creates a 46 Howard, Heritage: management, interpretation, identity, p. 120. 47 Lucy Worsley, ‘Home Truths’, in Museum Journal, Museums Association, (London: Museums Association, May 2004), p. 24. 48 Hunt, ‘Finding the thread: Telling stories at Cotehele’, in Narrative and the Built Heritage. Papers in Tourism Research, p. 175. 49 Extracted from a Cotehele questionnaire reply. 50 Tilden, Interpreting our Heritage, p. 3-4. 23
unique and personalised touch that is greatly appreciated. This is reiterated throughout the analysed comment cards with responses such as: - Very interesting place and volunteers who give information without waiting to be asked are worth their weight in gold. Thank you. - Wonderful – thank you to the guides for such interesting information and enthusiasm. A very pleasant and fascinating visit. - Loved the gentleman telling the tales within the tapestries. Especially the snake biting the heel of a lady. - In the house I had fun and the adults were kind and I really enjoyed my time it’s a lovely experience. I really think the people should work with children. They are so kind. (written by a child)51 The ability to provide individual attention allows the guides to adjust their delivery depending on the circumstances. Within other comparative scenarios, audience interaction is established by the ‘separation in time and by place, market segment differentiation, and sometimes by interpretation policies.’52 The situation that is created with the use of interactive guides means that the widest audience range can be managed, and, although the National Trust does implement such audience segmentation analyses53, the involvement of the volunteers diffuses any solid boundaries, thus providing an invaluable asset against distinctly targeted conveyance. However, there are minute disagreements relating to the presence of the guides within the data collected. A single case from within the visitor comment cards (out of nearly 100 viewed) stated that although it was the best National Trust property that they had visited so far, they did not enjoy being accosted in every room by a lecture.54 This situation is addressed within one of the volunteer questionnaire replies, by commenting that ‘we are more used to taking our cue from questions asked, and the visitors often find guides who are proactive to be bossy and intrusive!’55 It is cases like these that can permanently deter a visitor from returning. The fact that they may have deeply enjoyed the visit, but that it is marred by obtrusions will indefinitely cause diminished personal affection with the narrative, even if the gaze has fulfilled its ambition. ‘Knowing ones limitations is also a precious asset. Somewhere there will be the visitor who knows more about a plant or a kind of thatching than does the guide, who can only benefit from an exchange of information.’56 51 Statements taken from a random selection of visitor comment cards, all viewed and recorded on site. 52 Howard, Heritage: management, interpretation, identity, p. 129. 53 The segmentation groups discussed are not to be named here, as they are confidential between the independent research group working on behalf of the Trust, and the Trust themselves. 54 Statement taken from a visitor comment card viewed at the site. 55 Extracted from a Cotehele questionnaire reply. 56 Howard, Heritage: management, interpretation, identity, p. 256. A PLACE FOR A MEETING: THE REAL AND PERCIEVED Sam Matthams
From here then, albeit a sweeping overview of the research attained, the main points are evident. The relationship between the audience and site takes precedent, as what interests the visitor is the most direct route into their inner realm. The capability and sensibility of the volunteer room guides is paramount. They are the point of contact which is able to connect a multitude of desires to the engaging narratives that are interlaced throughout Cotehele. The site has so much to offer, distinct from its competition with its unfamiliar circumstances, and yet to put it all into print would overwhelm its visitors. The intrinsic link between the diverse abundance of history and its multivalent audience lies in the intelligently decisive interactions that can be created between them.
Conclusion In a market increasingly reliant upon its audience’s connection, heritage has had to divulge more of its life than ever before. The interactions now desired are no longer simplified within an appreciation of the displayed material, but instead depend on the site’s ability to emotively relate with its audience’s inner world. Daydreams and fantasies have the capability to interact with the physical space more engagingly than the reality. Therefore, the importance of a site’s presented narrative is that it not only conveys the character of the property, but also it’s embedded experience. It is on this premise that a chosen site is visited: it is seen as a place where such imaginings can be lived. Fulfillment of this inner projection relies upon the harmonious link between the build up and the experience, with the decisive interactions on site dictating the visitors’ overall perceptions. However, the capability to diversify the approach of the narrative, dependent upon the audience’s personal inner dialogues, can allow the internal fantasies to be directly catered for, and it is here that knowledgeable and intuitive guides surpass all other methods of heritage interpretation. Although the complexities surrounding a successful implementation can be structurally dismantled, revealing a strategic process of critical interactions, ultimately, its composition could never be ‘bottled’. With the ever-changing cultural trends, its composition would never stay the same. A continued dialogue between site and user must be maintained and responded to in order to instill the best possible circumstances for a meaningful connection to establish.
Bibliography: Books Alsayyad, Nezar, ed., Consuming Tradition, Manufacturing Heritage: Global Norms and Urban Forms in the Age of Tourism, (London: Routledge, 2001). AlSayyad, Nezar, ‘Global Norms and Urban Forms in the Age of Tourism: Manufacturing Heritage, Consuming Tradition’, in Nezar AlSayyad, (ed.), Manufacturing Heritage: Global Norms and Urban Forms in the Age of Tourism, (London: Routledge, 2001). Ashworth, Gregory and Howard, Peter, European Heritage Planning and Management, (Exeter: Intellect Books, 1999). Campbell, Collin, The Romantic Ethic and Spirit of Modern Consumerism, (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1987). Caughey, John, Imaginary Social Worlds: A Cultural Approach, (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1984). Collins, Peter, Changing Ideals in Modern Architecture, (London: Faber and Faber Limited, 1965). Cowell, Ben, The Heritage Obsession: A Battle for England’s Past, (Stroud: Tempus Publishing, 2008). Earl, John, Building Conservation Philosophy, (Reading: Donhead, 1996). Eco, Umberto, Travels in Hyperreality, (London: Harcourt, 1986). Eisenman, Peter, House of Cards, (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1987). Graham, Beryl and Cook, Sarah, Rethinking Curating, (London: MIT Press, 2010). Graham, Brian and Howard, Peter, eds., The Ashgate Research Companion to Heritage and Identity, (Aldershot: Ashgate Publishing, 2008). Hall, Stuart, ed., Representation: Cultural Representations and Signifying Practices, (London: Sage, 1997). Hobsbawm, Eric and Ranger, Terence, eds., The Invention of Tradition, (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1983).
A PLACE FOR A MEETING: THE REAL AND PERCIEVED Sam Matthams
Hollis, Edward, The Secret Lives of Buildings, (London: Portobello Books Ltd, 2009). Howard, Peter, Heritage: Management, Interpretation, Identity, (London: Continuum, 2003). Hunt, Rachel, ‘Finding the thread: Telling stories at Cotehele, in Charlie Mansfield, Simon Seligman, (eds.), Narrative and the Built Heritage. Papers in Tourism Research, (Saarbrücken, VDM Verlag Dr. Müller GmbH & Co. KG, 2011), Jan van Pelt, Robert and Westfall, Carroll, Architecture Principles in the Age of Historicism, (Gilford: Biddles Limited, 1993). Jokilehto, Jukka, A History of Architectural Conservation, (Oxford: Butterworth-Heinemann, 1999). Lefebvre, Henri, The Production of Space, (Oxford: Blackwell, 1991). Mansfield, Charlie and Seligman, Simon, eds., Narrative and the Built Heritage: Papers in Tourism Research, (Saarbrücken: Verlag Dr. Müller GmbH & Co. KG, 2011). Meethan, Kevin, Tourism in Global Society: Place, Culture, Consumption, (Basingstoke: Palgrave, 2001). Milne, James Lees, People and Places, (London: John Murray, 1992). Misiura, Shashi, Heritage Marketing, (Oxford: Butterworth-Heinemann, 2006). Orbasli, Aylin, Tourism in Historic Towns: Urban Conservation and Heritage Management, (London: E & FN Spon, 2000). Tafuri, Manfredo, Theories and History of Architecture, (St Albans: Granada Publishing Limited, 1980). Tilden, Freeman, Interpreting Our Heritage, (USA: The University of North Carolina Press, 1967). Trauer, Birgit, ‘Conceptualizing special interest tourism – frameworks for analysis’, in C. Ryan, S. Page, A Morrison, (eds.), Tourism Management 27, (London: Elseiver, 2006). Upton, Dell, ‘‘Authentic’ Anxieties’, in Nezar AlSayyad, (ed.), Manufacturing Heritage: Global Norms and Urban Forms in the Age of Tourism, (London: Routledge, 2001). Urry, John, Consuming Places, (London: Routledge, 1995). Urry, John, The Tourist Gaze, (London: Sage, 1990). 27
Online Articles Bowden, Sharon, Williams, Simon, ‘Consumption and Emotion: The Romantic Ethic Revisited’, Sage Publications, http://www.sagepub.com/mcdonaldizationstudy5/articles/Consumption_Articles%20PDFs/Boden.pdf, [accessed 25th January 2013]. Bryman, Alan, ‘The Disneyization of Society’, http://www.canyons.edu/Faculty/haugent/Disneyization%20of%20Society%20Article.pdf, [accessed 28th January 2013]. Franklin, Adrian, ‘The Tourist Gaze and Beyond: An interview with John Urry’, Sage Publications, http://navi.paginas.ufsc.br/files/2011/09/franklin-The-Tourist-Gaze-and-beyond-Aninterview-with-John-Urry.pdf, [accessed 10th November 2012]. Kabalek, Paul, ‘The Tourist Gaze’, Chelsea College of Arts and Design, http://www.kubalek. priv.at/download/Kubalek Paul-MAGDC-TheTouristGazeEssay_end.pdf, [accessed 19th December 2012]. Reijnders, Stijn, ‘Places of the imagination: an ethnography of the TV detective tour’, Sage Publications, http://cgj.sagepub.com/cgj/content/abstract/17/1/37, [accessed 28th October 2012]. Urry, John, ‘Globalising the Tourist Gaze’, Lancaster University, http://www.lancs.ac.uk/fass/ sociology/papers/urry-globalising-the-tourist-gaze.pdf, [accessed 19th December 2012].
Journals Museums Journal, Museums Association, (London: Museums Association, December 2012), passim. Museums Journal, Museums Association, (London: Museums Association, May 2004), passim. Museums Journal, Museums Association, (London: Museums Association, November 2012), passim. Museums Journal, Museums Association, (London: Museums Association, October 2012), passim. Museums Journal, Museums Association, (London: Museums Association, September 2012), passim.
A PLACE FOR A MEETING: THE REAL AND PERCIEVED Sam Matthams
Material Used for Case Study Analysis National Trust, ‘Cotehele Journal: Volume 4’, Site material, (March 2012). National Trust, ‘Cotehele: Property Business Plan 2013-16’, Intranet document (September 2012). National Trust, ‘Introduction to Cotehele: and notes on the Great Hall’, Internal material for visitors and guides, (2011). National Trust, ‘MI Dashboard 2012’, Intranet spreadsheet, (2012). National Trust, ‘The Significance of Cotehele’, Internal material for visitors and guides, (undated).
Image References Figure 1: Front image: Own illustration. Figure 2: A diagram showing the connection between the real and the internal realm, facilitated by the gaze; Own illustration. Figure 3: A Diagram showing the full spectrum of scenarios, each progressing into the next: Own illustration developed from ideas read within Meethan, Tourism in Global Society: place, culture, consumption, pp. 90-113, also within Howard, Heritage: management, interpretation, identity, (London: Continuum, 2003), pp. 53-100. Figure 4: Cotehele’s settings: Authors own image. Figure 5: Cotehele’s Hall: Authors own image Figure 6: A 19th century illustrated tourist guide for Cotehele, by Nicholas Condy; Scan of page, given by the National Trust, who are in possession of the aforementioned book. Figure 7: Chart showing the elements that positively impacted upon a visitor’s experience; Own design from attained data.
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A PLACE FOR A MEETING: THE REAL AND PERCIEVED How can a heritage site ensure that its chosen presented narrative will effectively appeal to...
Published on Jul 16, 2013
A PLACE FOR A MEETING: THE REAL AND PERCIEVED How can a heritage site ensure that its chosen presented narrative will effectively appeal to...