Today I attended the meeting of the Friends of Towneley Park. I was anxious because I wasn’t sure how I would be received. I had agreed to explain my project in a 5 minute slot on the agenda – I found it difficult to simplify my aims in this regard and hope that I got the main thrust across well enough. Some of the group had questions, raising their own partiality towards the park; I explained that this was not an issue for my own research. Two of the attendees handed me back a completed consent form that morning, which was encouraging.
The meeting in general was very interesting. There was much discussion about maintenance of things, like the bird feeders and noticeboards and the mobility scooters. More interesting was the relationship with the council. A representative of the Council’s Green Spaces department was at the meeting and it was interesting to see that the group and the Council clearly communicate in order to achieve their goals together.
There is also a ‘heritage’ aspect of the council’s interest. This was highlighted in the meeting when the members discussed the Italian Garden found next to the hall. Some of the members wanted benches to be placed on a slightly raised area so that the garden could be seen by the visitors to the park; other members, however, stated that the intention of the garden was that it be seen only from the first floor of the hall. This also seemed to be the Council’s approach. Within this group, then, despite a broadly similar demographic, there is contention.
Near the end of the meeting I found myself agreeing to give a couple of guided tours of the park to visiting groups. I am a little anxious about this, as I am not sure I have the required knowledge of the Park and Hall – the group say that they’ll bring me up to speed. Should be interesting…!
This week I have been distributing posters which aim to recruit participants for my research. I have so far given these out to Townley Hall, Burnley Library and the Students Union in Burnley UCLAN. I have also linked a digital version of the poster to Twitter feeds on Burnley Newspaper and the Facebook page of the Islamic Cultural Centre in Burnley.
Now I am playing the waiting game as we lead up to the Christmas break. In January I will meet with the Friends of Towneley Park, the members of which will hopefully engage with the interview process. However, I have a sneaky suspicion that I am going to get very few responses from the posters. This means that I am going to have to (a) approach visitors at the park directly and/or (b) identify some other groups who use the park and whom I can approach.
It is very tempting to do some preliminary development of the digital representation, but I have to remind myself that there is no way of telling what form this will take until I carry out some actual field work!
Reading material for study seems to be ever expanding and I am having difficulty reigning this in. However, I currently feel that I need to add to my corpus of knowledge in the area of space and place (I have been reading Doreen Massey) and, considering the nature of Towneley Hall, the role of the National Trust and country estates – I have been reading David Harvey, whose history of heritage article has brought me back to the importance of institutional roles.
My Interim Assessment has been conducted and I have been declared fit to continue with my studies beyond the first year. So, a round up:
My initial proposal was more ambiguously aiming at identifying the role of digital representation and, more specifically, new media simulation, in the interpretation of heritage. My leanings in the past have been historical or archaeological, but I began considering ‘natural’ heritage in more detail. This followed a family holiday in France in 2012 where we visited several eco museums, such as the Daviaud and the Kulmino.
After discussions with my supervisor, I began to consider exploring woodland heritage; something that is interesting to me in particular having grown up in the Forest of Dean. Throughout the course of attempting to identify appropriate forest locations for research, I eventually refined my choices to Grass Wood in Grassington and Towneley Park in Burnley.
However, after discussing my aims with the interim assessment panel I began to re-assess my aims. The truth was that Grassington offered probably limited variety demographically. While there is bound to be a variety of heritage interpretations within the community found within Grassington, there was the real possibility that these interpretations would broadly fit within the Authorised Heritage Discourse and so limit conclusions concerning the effects of simulated or digital heritage representations. As I drove home, I thought about the cultural and social variety within the Burnley community. I thought about Towneley Park and the range of people who visit and enjoy the facilities and landscape. I became excited at the possibility of hearing the different stories that people will have about this place.
I was reticent to drop Grass Wood as a research focus, but I asked myself why woodland heritage was so crucial for my research. I concluded that despite my personal love of forests, the broader research aim to explore the interpretation of natural landscapes was the important aspect. Since I hope that my research will help to develop a methodological framework for approaching heritage interpretation, woodland heritage is perhaps too specific at this stage. If my research is useful and successful then I hope that further research into woodland heritage and digital representation will be a real possibility.
For now my focus is much clearer – In what ways does new media simulation change the heritage interpretation of Towneley Park?