UoE’s Professor Caitlin DeSilvey presents 'Curated Decay' on US lecture tour

Professor Caitlin DeSilvey, Associate Professor of Cultural Geography, based on the Penryn Campus, recently returned from a tour of the US, where she gave public lectures and seminars at Yale University and the University of Virginia. All were based on her research into the cultural significance of material change and transformation, with a particular focus on heritage contexts. 

In her 2017 book, Curated Decay: Heritage Beyond Saving, Prof. DeSilvey raised many questions about how we think about ‘heritage’: Is it possible to imagine a post-preservationist orientation to the things that we classify as ‘heritage’? What new relationships with the past (and the future) might emerge from a heritage practice that works with—rather than against—transience and decay? Can we make space for the creative co-existence of ecological process and cultural remembrance?

On the tour, Prof. DeSilvey revisited the book’s key themes, and discussed some of the questions that have arisen from its reception in both academic and practitioner contexts. The lectures used excerpted readings as prompts to critical reflection on the viability of the book’s argument in relation to issues of politics, policy and poetics.

In April, Curated Decay was awarded The University of Mary Washington’s Center for Historic Preservation 2018 Book Prize. The Center awards the prize each year to an author whose book has a positive impact on preservation in the United States.

Curated Decay is a beautifully written book that conceptualizes the innovative treatment of historic sites beyond saving,” according to the book prize jury. “This is a personal book that is also universal in its approach: Caitlin DeSilvey hauntingly focuses on attachment to place.”

The jury continued: “We know that not all places can be preserved, but if they cannot be preserved, what can be done with them? How do you let things fade away while giving them the respect they deserve? This book gives us space to breathe and have flexibility in our response. DeSilvey provides comfort in this uncomfortable subject matter. She discusses the continuum of change rather than period of significance.”