Challenging "The belief that scrupulous attention to detail will bring the dead to life"

concrete artifacts versus intangible cultural heritage at the New South Wales Eveleigh railway workshops

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference proceeding contribution

Abstract

The Eveleigh railway workshops, which operated between 1887 and 1989, are one of Australia's oldest industrial artefacts. After their operations were terminated, many lobbied the Government to ensure the conservation of Eveleigh's built fabric and machinery collection. Eveleigh was listed on heritage registers and the subject of 9 heritage assessment reports. Mostly these adopted a taxonomic approach informed by positivist assumptions, an empiricist orientation and a technologically-detetministic teleology, which ensured the recognition of Eveleigh's architectural and technological significance and the protection of its buildings and machinery collection. Yet such exaltation of tangible heritage has not extended to the site's social value. On the contrary, the record of the lives of ordinary men and women has not been preserved in situ. Overarching concern for ‘tangible’ industrial remains has been at the expense of their ‘intangible’ social and cultural associations. This paper explains this outcome by referring to two sets of stories. First, it examines the way representations of Eveleigh's technological significance have provided the rationale and funds for conserving its tangible heritage. Second, it uses oral testimonies to identify those intangible associations that defined Eveleigh's cultural landscape. Both sets of stories are then related to the approach that has been taken to Eveleigh's heritage conservation. Through this approach I show how the unique and irreplaceable resources contained in human memories are in danger of being lost as a result of an overarching emphasis on buildings and machines. The redefinition of this cultural landscape since the 1990s has, I argue, been founded on what lain Stuart (1992:140) refers to as the 'object fetishism' that has come to be associated with industrial archaeology and the nostalgia that surrounds steam era technology. Both have supported the imperatives and politics of de-industrialisation, the recolonisation of the industrial landscape and heritage management.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationHeritage of Technology - Gdansk outlook 4
Subtitle of host publicationInternational Conference : proceedings
EditorsEdmund Wittbrodt, Waldemar Affelt
Place of PublicationGdansk, Poland
PublisherGdansk University of Technology
Pages303-310
Number of pages8
Publication statusPublished - 2005
Externally publishedYes
EventHeritage of Technology - Gdansk Outlook (4th : 2005) - Gdańsk, Poland
Duration: 4 May 20057 May 2005

Conference

ConferenceHeritage of Technology - Gdansk Outlook (4th : 2005)
CityGdańsk, Poland
Period4/05/057/05/05

Fingerprint Dive into the research topics of 'Challenging "The belief that scrupulous attention to detail will bring the dead to life": concrete artifacts versus intangible cultural heritage at the New South Wales Eveleigh railway workshops'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

  • Cite this

    Taksa, L. (2005). Challenging "The belief that scrupulous attention to detail will bring the dead to life": concrete artifacts versus intangible cultural heritage at the New South Wales Eveleigh railway workshops. In E. Wittbrodt, & W. Affelt (Eds.), Heritage of Technology - Gdansk outlook 4: International Conference : proceedings (pp. 303-310). Gdansk, Poland: Gdansk University of Technology.