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Another elderly lady to be knocked down: Heritage discourse and the protest to save the Missions to Seamen building, 1986

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posted on 2021-11-23, 19:15 authored by Alexander Gordon

Through a specific historical case study, Another Elderly Lady to be Knocked Down applies discourse theory and the Authorised Heritage Discourse (AHD) to the context of urban built heritage in Aotearoa New Zealand. Previously, only limited work had been done in this area. By examining an underexplored event this dissertation fills two gaps in present literature: the history of the event itself and identification of the heritage discourses in the country at the time. Examination of these discourses in context also allows conclusions about the use of the AHD in similar studies to be critically examined.  In 1986 the Missions to Seamen building in Wellington, New Zealand, was threatened with demolition by its government owners. In a remarkable display of popular sentiment, individuals, organisations, the Wellington City Council (WCC) and the New Zealand Historic Places Trust (NZHPT) worked together to oppose this unpopular decision. This protest was a seminal event in the history of heritage in New Zealand.  This study relies upon documentary sources, especially the archival records of the Historic Places Trust and the State Services Commission, who owned the building, to provide the history of this watershed moment in New Zealand’s preservation movement. The prevalent attitudes of different groups in Wellington are examined through the letters of protest they wrote at the time. When analysed in context, these discourses reveal the ways in which heritage was articulated and constructed.  The course of this dissertation has revealed the difficulty of identifying an AHD in this context. The level of collaboration between ‘official’ and ‘unofficial’ heritage perspectives, and the extent to which they shaped each other’s language, creates considerable difficulty in distinguishing between discreet discourses. To better explore the ways that heritage meaning is constructed and articulated, heritage must be recognised as a complex dynamic process.


Copyright Date


Date of Award



Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

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Author Retains Copyright

Degree Discipline

Museum and Heritage Studies

Degree Grantor

Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Degree Level


Degree Name

Master of Museum and Heritage Studies

ANZSRC Type Of Activity code


Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Awarded Research Masters Thesis



Victoria University of Wellington School

School of Art History, Classics and Religious Studies


Davidson, Lee; Kelly, Michael