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A new model for memory work: nostalgic discourse at a historic home

International Journal of Heritage Studies, vol. 17, issue September 2013 (2011) pp. 116-135

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Abstract

To make domestic heritage sites useful to their communities, we must acknowledge discourses, define structures and critically examine the interplay of our own and others' practices of commemoration. How do agendas of remembering and forgetting intersect at historic dwellings? These issues are explored through the Elihu Akin House, a late eighteenth-century house museum in a New England coastal village. Existing site narratives are dissected through the social theories of Peirce and Bourdieu, revealing nostalgia as a structuring element of cultural logics. The author argues that mechanisms of nostalgia, approached critically, offer interpretive common ground for memory work at historic homes (and beyond). As a material and emotional discourse, nostalgia binds memory, place and experience. This study proposes a new model for heritage-makers seeking to alter site narratives without undermining a site's established worth. They might identify then disrupt pre-existing nostalgic narratives, finally bridging those disruptions through additional, critical nostalgic discourses. New and established narratives can coexist, in harmony and in tension, and visitors should be invited into the interpretive process. [ABSTRACT FROM AUTHOR]
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