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Heritage and Participation: a case study of advocacy in post-earthquake Christchurch

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Version 1 2021-12-07, 08:10
posted on 2023-09-22, 02:14 authored by Ford, Rebecca Margaret Halliday

This dissertation explores the advocacy for the Christchurch Town Hall that occurred in 2012-2015 after the Canterbury Earthquakes. It frames this advocacy as an instance of collective-action community participation in a heritage decision, and explores the types of heritage values it expressed, particularly social values. The analysis contextualises the advocacy in post-quake Christchurch, and considers its relationship with other developments in local politics, heritage advocacy, and urban activism. In doing so, this dissertation considers how collective action operates as a form of public participation, and the practical implications for understanding and recognising social value.  This research draws on studies of practices that underpin social value recognition in formal heritage management. Social value is held by communities outside institutions. Engaging with communities enables institutions to explore the values of specific places, and to realise the potential of activating local connections with heritage places. Such projects can be seen as participatory practices. However, these processes require skills and resources, and may not be appropriate for all places, communities and institutions. However, literature has understudied collective action as a form of community participation in heritage management. All participation processes have nuances of communities, processes, and context, and this dissertation analyses these in one case. The research specifically asked what heritage values (especially social values) were expressed through collective action, what the relationship was with the participation processes, communities, and wider situation that produced them, and the impact on institutional rhetoric and decisions. The research analysed values expressed in representations made to council in support of the Town Hall. It also used documentary sources and interviews with key informants to analyse the advocacy and decision-making processes and their relationships with the wider context and other grassroots activities. The analysis concluded that the values expressed intertwined social and professional values. They were related to the communities and circumstance that produced them, as an advocacy campaign for a civic heritage building from a Western architectural tradition. The advocacy value arguments were one of several factors that impacted the decision. They have had a lasting impact on rhetoric around the Town Hall, as was a heritage-making practice in its own right. This dissertation makes a number of contributions to the discussion of social value and community in heritage. It suggests connections between advocacy and participation perspectives in heritage. It recommends consideration of nuances of communities, context, and place meanings when using heritage advocacy campaigns as evidence of social value. It adds to the literature on heritage advocacy, and offers a focused analysis of one of many heritage debates that occurred in post-quake Christchurch. Ultimately, it encourages practice to actively integrate social and community values and to develop self-reflexive engagement and valuation processes. Despite inherent challenges, participatory processes offer opportunities to diversify understandings of value, co-produce heritage meanings with communities, and empower citizens in democratic processes around the places they live with and love.


Copyright Date


Date of Award



Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Rights License

CC BY-ND 4.0

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

Victoria University of Wellington Unit

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