Holly Taylor

National Archives of Australia/Australian Historical Association postgraduate scholar, 2017–18


Preserving Places that Matter: Origins of Social Value in Australian Heritage Conservation Policy

Biographical note

Holly Taylor is a PhD candidate at the University of Washington in the College of Built Environments Interdisciplinary PhD program. Her dissertation examines preservation policy and practice related to community values and the cultural significance of historic places. She holds degrees in cultural anthropology and architecture history and theory, directs a heritage consultancy founded in 2003, and also serves as an affiliate instructor for the University of Washington Department of Urban Design and Planning.

Project summary

In the context of the fiftieth anniversary of the 1966 US National Historic Preservation Act, Holly will explore how historic preservation protects places that people actually care about. Studies of the development of U.S. federal preservation regulations reveal perspectives limited to historical, architectural and archaeological values. In contrast, the Australian Heritage Commission Act 1975 and the subsequent 1979 Burra Charter recognise social significance as a core value, along with aesthetic, historic and scientific significance, providing an important alternative approach to conservation philosophy and research methods.

A key aspect of Holly's research seeks to understand the historical origins of the concept of social value, and how it was introduced into Australian heritage discourse during the Hope Inquiry process. Two general inspirations for social value are widely recognised: Aboriginal activism associated with self-determination, and union activism of the Green Bans movement. However, the specific sources for how these movements were translated into public heritage policy in Australia in a way that gave legal standing to community values remain unclear.

Holly intends to access records associated with the Committee of Inquiry into the National Estate (1973–74) chaired by Justice Robert M Hope, to understand how public submissions may have informed the Committee's recommendation to include social value among Australia's criteria for assessing heritage significance. This will provide greater insight into the role of community activism in shaping Australia's innovative approach to social value as part of the National Estate, which in turn influenced UNESCO world heritage policy. Although Australian federal policy has since shifted away from considering community significance, this historical study of social value will build an argument for adopting a similar policy in the US more than 40 years later.

Copyright National Archives of Australia 2019