Palliative curation in the reluctant ruin

Author(s): Caitlin DeSilvey

Year: 2013


The ruins of the recent past pose a management riddle for those who must decide their fate. Options for action oscillate between removal and eradication on the one hand, and restoration and elevation to the status of heritage object on the other. While some sites have actively embraced a philosophy of continued ruination, this approach must contend with continual calls for stabilisation (or demolition). Ultimately, those who manage such spaces must be seen to be ‘doing something’, beyond accepting the influence of active processes of entropy and decay. This paper poses the concept of palliative curation as a way of acknowledging (and even embracing) the gradual loss of material integrity in ruined historic sites. Within this framework, acts of ephemeral interpretation become critically and creatively significant. This paper explores these ideas through reflection on two recent art interventions at former UK military installations—Orford Ness, Suffolk, and RAF Drytree, Cornwall.

Cite this Record

Palliative curation in the reluctant ruin. Caitlin DeSilvey. Presented at Society for Historical Archaeology, Leicester, England, U.K. 2013 ( tDAR id: 428615)


Art Management Ruins

Geographic Keywords
United Kingdom Western Europe

Temporal Keywords
20th and 21st Century

Spatial Coverage

min long: -8.158; min lat: 49.955 ; max long: 1.749; max lat: 60.722 ;

Record Identifiers

PaperId(s): 406