Conserving spaces of memory and heritage: the complexities, challenges and politics of the stone wall project on bluestone quarry at Robben Island
This thesis is a critical study of a conservation project on restoration of a Stone Wall at Bluestone Quarry on Robben Island, a world heritage site. The Stone Wall was built by the ex-political prisoners, in the early 1960s, as part of their hard labour. The thesis mainly focuses on the contestations that arose during the twelve year period of the project (2002 to 2014) among the stakeholders that included the ex-political prisoners, the environmentalists, the heritage managers and South African Heritage Resource Agency. Central to this study was the question, when a restoration project of a significant heritage site is informed by oral history and memories how are the concerns of diverse range of interest groups addressed and resolved? The thesis is grounded in the theoretical frameworks of sites of memory, heritage and conservation. The study involved both archival research and oral history as its research methodologies. The thesis shows that during the restoration project of the Stone Wall, the proposed designs had impacts on authenticity and biodiversity of the site. The various stakeholders that were involved debated and sought ways to influence decisions in resolving these impacts. Where necessary compromises were made. The thesis argues that during the project, oral history and memory work, and by extension the ex-political prisoners, had a significant role in influencing some of the important decisions. Among other things, the thesis seeks to provide a critical understanding of issues of heritage and conservation management on sites that are of cultural/historical significance.