Theses Master's

Installation Method: a tool for community engagement in Historic Preservation

de la Torre, Maria

A recent shift in historic preservation theory and practice suggests that the field look at heritage through a holistic approach that broadens the range of values considered in understanding the significance of a site. This values-centered approach to preservation emphasizes the importance of including a wide array of stakeholders in preservation processes while considering the multiple layers of values that they ascribe to sites in decision-making. This implies interaction between field experts and non-experts throughout the significance assessment, planning, management, and conservation processes of historic preservation. Although the importance of this interaction is widely acknowledged, there has been little research on how it is to be done, and the field has developed limited tools for its application. This thesis focuses on the relationship between historic preservation experts and local communities during the early stages of the preservation process, and develops a toolset that aids in their interaction. Through a case-study experiment, this project explores the possibility of using spatial installations as a means of communication between the two parties in order to identify the values that local communities ascribe to their heritage. It proposes that the alteration of space, and its integration with ethnographic methods of interaction, bridges barriers between experts and local communities, producing a richer insight into the significance of historic sites. As a case-study to test this proposal, a spatial installation was built in Jordán Sube, a small town in Colombia. The installation was used to foster a conversation with the town’s inhabitants about their heritage. This experiment concluded in a general strategy for implementing spatial installations as a method for community engagement in historic preservation projects.

Geographic Areas


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Historic Preservation
Thesis Advisors
Avrami, Erica C.
M.S., Columbia University
Published Here
June 23, 2016


Jordán Installation Video Link: