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Professor Caitlin DeSilvey

Professor Caitlin DeSilvey

Professor of Cultural Geography

 01326 254161

 Environment and Sustainability Institute 1.36


Environment and Sustainability Institute, University of Exeter, Penryn Campus, Penryn, Cornwall, TR10 9FE, UK


I am a geographer whose research explores the cultural significance of change and transformation, with a particular focus on heritage ecologies and climate futures. I’ve worked with artists, archaeologists, environmental scientists and heritage practitioners on a range of interdisciplinary projects, supported by funding from UK research councils (AHRC, EPSRC, NERC), the Royal Geographical Society, the Norwegian Research Council and the European Social Fund. Although much of my research is about how things (and places) fall apart, I am also interested in practices of repair and maintenance that hold things together.

My monograph, Curated Decay: Heritage Beyond Saving (UMP 2017), received the 2018 Historic Preservation Book Prize. Recent publications include After Discourse: Things, Affects, Ethics (Routledge 2020), an edited collection stemming from a 2016-17 fellowship at the Centre for Advanced Study in Olso, and Heritage Futures: Comparative Approaches to Natural and Cultural Heritage Practices (UCL 2020), a co-authored volume arising from work on the Heritage Futures research project. 

I am Co-Director of Global Engagement for the Department of Earth and Environmental Science, an academic lead on the National Trust/University of Exeter research partnership and an affiliate of the Wellcome Centre for Cultures and Environments of Health. I am also a member of the National Trust Historic Environment Advisory Group, advising the organisation on matters of strategy, policy and major project delivery. 

You can find my Google Scholar account here and my LinkedIn account here


2005 PhD Cultural Geography (Open University)
2001 MSc Cultural Geography (University of Edinburgh)
1994 BA Religious Studies and Environmental Studies (Yale University)


2020-present Professor, University of Exeter

2015-2019 Associate Professor, University of Exeter
2012-2015 Senior Lecturer, University of Exeter 
2007-2011 Lecturer, University of Exeter


Research group links

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Research interests

My main research interest involves exploring how cultural value and significance can be generated by working with ecological processes of change and transformation, rather than working against them, particularly in heritage contexts. This focus on process, rather than preservation, has been articulated through collaborative development of a series of novel concepts, including ‘curated decay’ and 'adaptive release'. My research has shown how, in certain sites, accommodation of material transformation can produce new opportunities for engagement, interpretation and care. Current projects extend and apply these ideas through collaborations with heritage practitioners and policy-makers, museum conservators and conservation architects. 

My research (and my PhD supervision) also touches on a range of related themes beyond this core focus, including: narratives of climate and environmental change; materiality and memory; transdisciplinary methdologies and epistemological equity; post-industrial ecologies and aesthetics; locative media and landscape; waste and value; micro-sustainable practices of repair and reuse; digital storytelling and interactive documentary practices. 

Research projects

Current projects

Mentoring and advisory roles

Previous projects

Research networks


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Olsen B, Burström M, DeSilvey C, Pétursdóttir Þ (eds)(2021). After Discourse: Things, Affects, Ethics., Routledge. Abstract.  Author URL.
Harrison R, Desilvey C, MacDonald S, Holtorf C (2020). Heritage Futures Comparative Approaches to Natural and Cultural Heritage Practices. London, UCL Press. Abstract.  Author URL.
DeSilvey CO (2017). Curated Decay: Heritage Beyond Saving., University of Minnesota Press. Abstract.  Author URL.
Bond, S, DeSilvey, C, Ryan J (2013). Visible mending: everyday repairs in the South West., Uniform Books.  Author URL.
DeSilvey C (eds)(2011). Anticipatory history. Axminster, Uniformbooks.  Author URL.
DeSilvey C (2002). Butterflies and Railroad Ties: a History of a Montana Homestead. Missoula, Montana.

Journal articles

Kadhim I, Abed FM, DeSilvey C (In Press). Combining remote sensing approaches for detecting marks of archaeological and demolished constructions in Cahokia’s Grand Plaza, South-Western Illinois. Remote Sensing
DeSilvey C, Duque M, Callén B (2023). Generative Repair and Graceful Decay: Interview with Caitlin DeSilvey. Diseña, 23
Venture T, DeSilvey C, Onciul B, Fluck H (2021). Articulating Loss: a Thematic Framework for Understanding Coastal Heritage Transformations. Historic Environment: Policy and Practice, 12(3-4), 395-417. Abstract.
Bartolini N, DeSilvey C (2021). Landscape futures: decision-making in uncertain times, a literature review. Landscape Research, 46(1), 8-24. Abstract.
DeSilvey C, Fredheim H, Fluck H, Hails R, Harrison R, Samuel I, Blundell A (2021). When Loss is More: from Managed Decline to Adaptive Release. Historic Environment: Policy and Practice, 12(3-4), 418-433. Abstract.
DeSilvey C, Harrison R (2020). Anticipating loss: rethinking endangerment in heritage futures. International Journal of Heritage Studies, 26(1), 1-7. Abstract.
Bartolini N, DeSilvey C (2020). Making space for hybridity: Industrial heritage naturecultures at West Carclaze Garden Village, Cornwall. Geoforum, 113, 39-49. Abstract.
Bartolini N, DeSilvey C (2020). Recording Loss: film as method and the spirit of Orford Ness. International Journal of Heritage Studies, 26(1), 19-36. Abstract.
DeSilvey CO (2019). Unbuilding: Process and Preservation. New Geographies, 10(10), 101-106. Abstract.
DeSilvey CO, Bartolini N (2019). Where horses run free? Autonomy, temporality and rewilding in the Côa Valley, Portugal. Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers
DeSilvey C (2017). Book Review Forum: Curated Decay, with commentaries by Emma Waterton, Harlan Morehouse, Richard Schein, Tim Cresswell and Caitlin DeSilvey. cultural geographies, 147447401773298-147447401773298.
Harrison R, Bartolini N, DeSilvey C, Holtorf C, Lyons A, Macdonald S, May S, Morgan J, Penrose S (2016). Heritage Futures. Archaeology International, 19(1).
DeSilvey CO (2015). Book Review: Mining Memories: Placing the Anthropocene. Cultural Geographies, 22, 377-378.
DeSilvey C, Ryan J, Bond S (2013). 21 Stories. Cultural Geographies, 21(4), 657-672.
Casalegno S, Inger R, Desilvey C, Gaston KJ (2013). Spatial covariance between aesthetic value & other ecosystem services. PLoS One, 8(6). Abstract.  Author URL.
Nettley A, DeSilvey CO, Anderson K, Caseldine C (2013). Visualising sea-level rise at a coastal heritage site: participatory process and creative communication. Landscape Research, 1-11. Abstract.
DeSilvey C (2012). Making sense of transience: an anticipatory history. cultural geographies, 19(1), 31-54. Abstract.
DeSilvey C, Edensor T (2012). Reckoning with ruins. Progress in Human Geography, 37(4), 465-485.
DeSilvey C (2010). Memory in motion: soundings from Milltown, Montana. Social and Cultural Geography, 11(5), 491-510. Abstract.  Author URL.
DeSilvey C (2010). River Axe Crossings. J HIST GEOGR, 36(1), 119-119.  Author URL.
DeSilvey C (2010). The comfort of things. ENVIRON PLANN D, 28(3), 562-563.  Author URL.
Degen M, DeSilvey C, Rose G (2008). Experiencing visualities in designed urban environments: learning from Milton Keynes. ENVIRON PLANN A, 40(8), 1901-1920. Abstract.  Author URL.
DeSilvey C (2007). Art and archive: memory-work on a Montana homestead. Journal of Historical Geography, 33(4), 878-900.
DeSilvey C (2007). Salvage memory: constellating material histories on a hardscrabble homestead. Cultural Geographies, 14(3), 401-424.
DeSilvey C (2006). Observed decay: telling stories with mutable things. Journal of Material Culture, 11(3), 318-338.  Author URL.
DeSilvey C (2003). Cultivated histories in a Scottish allotment garden. CULT GEOGR, 10(4), 442-468. Abstract.  Author URL.


DeSilvey C (2023). I for Identity. In Picard MH, Brenchat-Aguilar A, Carroll T, Gilbert J, Miller N (Eds.) Wastiary: a bestiary of waste, UCL Press, 38-41. Abstract.
DeSilvey C (2023). Patrimônio ruderal. In Benevides G, Lowande W (Eds.) Estudos Críticos de Patrimônio: Abordagens Transnacionais, Tirant Brasil, 41-60.
DeSilvey C (2023). RUDERALNE DZIEDZICTWO. In  (Ed) Krytyczne studia nad dziedzictwem. Pojęcia, metody, teorie i perspektywy, University of Warsaw.
DeSilvey C (2022). Becoming Apple. In Rouleau C (Ed) Woven in Vegetal Fabric: on Plant Becomings, Luxembourg: Casino Luxembourg, 222-241.
Grünfeld M, DeSilvey C (2022). Fringe Objects: Cultivating Residues at the Museum. In  (Ed) MUSEALE RESTE, De Gruyter, 35-44.
DeSilvey C (2022). Placing Time. In  (Ed) Re-Creating Anthropology, Taylor & Francis, 34-44.
DeSilvey C (2021). A Tale of Two Slates: on Collapse and Complicity. In Grossman V, Miguel C (Eds.) Everyday Matters: Contemporary Approaches to Architecture, Ruby Press, 142-155. Abstract.
DeSilvey C (2021). A positive passivity: Entropy and ecology in the ruins. In  (Ed) Heritage Ecologies, 285-305.
Olsen BJ, Burström M, DeSilvey C, Pétursdóttir Þ (2020). After discourse. In  (Ed) After Discourse, Taylor & Francis, 1-17.
DeSilvey C (2020). Ethics: Caring for things. In  (Ed) After Discourse, Taylor & Francis, 205-206.
DeSilvey C (2020). Foreword: on Consciousness and Conspiracy. In Mackay R (Ed) Hydroplutonic Kernow, MIT Press, xxv-xxix. Abstract.  Author URL.
DeSilvey C (2020). Foundered: other objects and the ethics of indifference. In Olsen B, Burström M, DeSilvey C, Pétursdóttir Þ (Eds.) After Discourse: Things, Affects, Ethics, Routledge, 219-231. Abstract.
DeSilvey C (2020). Palliative curation and future persistence: life after death. In Holtorf C, Högberg A (Eds.) Cultural Heritage and the Future, Key Issues in Cultural Heritage, 217-229. Abstract.  Author URL.
DeSilvey C (2020). Ruderal Heritage. In Harrison R, Sterling C (Eds.) Deterritorializing the Future: Heritage In, of and After the Anthropocene, Open Humanities Press, 289-310.  Author URL.
DeSilvey CO (2019). Head, Hand, Heart: on Contradiction, Contingency and Repair. In Laviolette P, Martinez F (Eds.) Repair, Breakages, Breakthroughs: Ethnographic Responses, Berghan, 17-23.  Author URL.
DeSilvey CO (2019). Rewilding Time in the Vale do Côa. In Tamm M, Olivier L (Eds.) Rethinking Historical Time: New Approaches to Presentism, Bloomsbury Academic, 193-206.  Author URL.
Bartolini N, DeSilvey C (2019). Rewilding as heritage-making: New natural heritage and renewed memories in Portugal. In  (Ed) The Routledge Handbook of Memory and Place, 305-314.
DeSilvey CO (2018). All Change (exhibition catalogue essay). In Cannon L (Ed) Liminal Matter, 3-5.  Author URL.
DeSilvey C, Yusoff K (2018). Art and geography. In  (Ed) companion encyclopedia of geography, Taylor & Francis, 571-586.
DeSilvey CO, Ryan J (2018). Everyday Kintsukuroi: Mending as Making. In Price L, Hawkins H (Eds.) Geographies of Making, Craft and Creativity, London: Routledge, 195-212.
DeSilvey CO (2018). The Death of a Lighthouse. In Strang V, Edensor T, Puckering J (Eds.) From the Lighthouse: an Experiment in Interdisciplinarity, Routledge, 157-160.
Paton DA, DeSilvey C (2016). Growing granite: the recombinant geologies of sludge. In  (Ed) Making and Growing: Anthropological Studies of Organisms and Artefacts, 221-237. Abstract.
DeSilvey CO (2015). Elemental Analysis. In Raymond-Barker O (Ed) Natural Alchemy, Falmouth, UK: Two Wood Press.
Paton D, DeSilvey C (2014). Growing granite: the recombinant geologies of sludge. In Hallam E, Ingold T (Eds.) Making and growing: anthropological studies of organisms and artefacts, Ashgate, 221-238.
DeSilvey C (2014). Palliative curation: art and entropy on Orford Ness. In Olsen B, Petursdottir T (Eds.) Ruin Memories: Materialities, Aesthetics and the Archaeology of the Recent Past, Routledge, 79-91.
DeSilvey C (2013). Object lessons: from batholith to bookend. In Winders J, Schein RH, Johnson NC (Eds.) Companion to Cultural Geography, Wiley-Blackwell, 146-158.
DeSilvey C, Bond S (2013). Photo essay: on salvage photography. In Piccini A, Harrison R, Graves-Brown P (Eds.) Oxford Handbook of the Archaeology of the Contemporary World, Oxford University Press, 642-656. Abstract.  Author URL.
DeSilvey C (2012). Copper places: affective circuitries. In Jones O, Garde-Hansen J (Eds.) Geography and memory: explorations in identity, place and becoming, Palgrave Macmillan, 45-57.
DeSilvey CO (2012). Observed decay: telling stories with mutable things (reprint). In Dudley S (Ed) Museum Objects, Routledge.
Desilvey CO (2007). Practical remembrance: material and method in a recycled archive. In Gagen E, Lorimer H, Vasudevan A (Eds.) Practicing the Archive: Reflections on Methods and Practice in Historical Geography, London: RGS Historical Geography Research Group Monograph Series, 37-45.
DeSilvey C, Yusoff K (2006). Art and geography: image and interpretation. In Douglas A, Huggett R, Perkins C (Eds.) Companion Encyclopaedia of Geography: from Local to Global, London: Routledge, 571-586.


Nettley A, Anderson K, DeSilvey CO, Caseldine CJ (2011). Using terrestrial laser scanning and LiDAR data for photo-realistic visualisation of climate impacts at heritage sites. 4th ISPRS International Workshop 3D-ARCH 2011 “3D Virtual Reconstruction and Visualization of Complex Architectures”. 2nd - 5th Mar 2011. Abstract.


DeSilvey C, Fredheim H, Blundell A, Harrison R (2022). Identifying Opportunities for Integrated Adaptive Management of Heritage Change and Transformation in England: a Review of Relevant Policy and Current Practice. Historic England, Historic England. Abstract.
Church A, Fish R, Haines-Young R, Mourato S, Tratalos J (2014). Work Package 5: Cultural Ecosystem Services and Indicators. DEFRA.
Desilvey CO (2006). Coloma, Montana: Cultural Resource Management Plan. Bureau of Land Management, Missoula: BLM Missoula Field Office.
Desilvey CO (2006). Update to the Joint Northside/Westside Neighborhood Plan. Missoula City/County Office of Planning and Grants, Missoula, Montana.

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Supervision / Group

Postgraduate researchers

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Office Hours:

During term time students can book a slot on this Sharepoint worksheet to meet with me during my scheduled office hours.

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