Inclusion and Negotiation: Interpreting Underwater Battlefield Sites for the Public

Dublin Core


Inclusion and Negotiation: Interpreting Underwater Battlefield Sites for the Public


Session 1
Contexts of War and Conflict in Maritime and Underwater Cultural Heritage Research and Management


The development of a World War Two (WWII) underwater heritage trail focusing on the Battle of Saipan has recently been undertaken in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands on Saipan. This WWII heritage trail was formulated out of the interest of the local Historic Preservation Office’s (HPO) desire to protect and interpret its underwater cultural heritage (UCH). Through a United States of America (U.S.) National Park Service American Battlefield Protection Program grant in collaboration with a non-profit organisation and university program this trail was developed during 2009-2010 and launched in 2011.

The development of a heritage trail that interprets such a confronting, painful and tragic event for multiple culture groups is a difficult task. A balanced approach of interpreting battlefield heritage can only be achieved through the identification and inclusion of the various stakeholders and an awareness of what is being included, ignored or inadequately represented in the interpretation. Listening to the multiple stakeholders’ views about the significance of such sites and incorporating those views into interpretive and management practices is key to an inclusive and shared interpretation of heritage. Further, an awareness and acknowledgment of the social and political context in which one is working is fundamental to understanding how practitioners negotiate the process of interpretation. As Logan and Reeves (2009:13) have communicated so well, “Heritage conservation is a form of cultural politics; it is about the links between ideology, public policy, national and community identity formation, and celebration, just as much as it is about technical issues relating to restoration and adaptive re-use techniques”.

This paper provides an in-depth discussion on the process of developing a battlefield heritage trail. It will explore the theory and practice, the pitfalls and highlights, and the problems and solutions of interpreting and managing a battlefield site.


Jennifer F. McKinnon


November 2011



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