Wrestling with Social Value: An Examination of Methods and Approaches for Assessing Social Value in Heritage Management and Conservation


Robson E (2021) Wrestling with Social Value: An Examination of Methods and Approaches for Assessing Social Value in Heritage Management and Conservation. Doctor of Philosophy. University of Stirling. http://hdl.handle.net/1893/33355

This thesis explores how heritage practitioners can better understand and evidence the social values associated with the historic environment. It takes as a starting point concepts of value, community, and expertise that are plural, dynamic, and creative, capable of producing multiple connected realities or heritages. Such critical perspectives on the historic environment and its contemporary significance are increasingly reflected in international conservation instruments, as well as domestic heritage frameworks in Scotland and the UK, but incorporation into day-to-day heritage management and conservation practice has been slow. This research demonstrates how social value can be assessed in ‘real world’ heritage contexts though seven case studies conducted across Scotland where multiple qualitative methods and participatory approaches were trialled. Analysis of the case studies shows that different methods produced different kinds of knowledge and illustrates how critical the social context was in determining the assessment approach. Influenced by the work of Mol and Law, it is argued that practitioners need a “methods assemblage” to engage effectively with the complexity of on-going processes of valuing and evolving contexts, with methods applied flexibly, in a responsive and reflexive mode of praxis. This implies not only new methods, but new ways of working with emergent understandings and types of knowledge that differ from established disciplines and presentations. Although institutional systems and processes tend to simplify or fix values, the thesis concludes that bringing social values into heritage practice requires a productive engagement with complexity, foregrounding different knowledges depending on context. This research is the first systematic comparative methodological review related to assessing the social value of the historic environment. As such, it contributes to understandings of the ‘work’ such methods do, how they can be applied in practice, and the significance of the historic environment to contemporary communities.

Heritage Management; Social Value; Methods; Co-design; Collaboration; Participation; Historic Environment; Knowledge Production; Qualitative; Rapid Assessment; Complexity; Communities

FundersHistoric Environment Scotland
SupervisorsSiân Jones; Peter Matthews
InstitutionUniversity of Stirling
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Qualification levelPhD
Publisher URLhttp://hdl.handle.net/1893/33355