Evaluating the modern interpretation of medieval castles: a comparison of two English heritage sites in the south east of England

Stewart, Jennifer (2011) Evaluating the modern interpretation of medieval castles: a comparison of two English heritage sites in the south east of England. MSc dissertation, University of Portsmouth.

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    Abstract

    This dissertation aims to evaluate the modern interpretation of medieval castles, with a particular focus on two English Heritage properties in the South East of England. These two sites are Dover Castle in Kent and Portchester Castle in Hampshire. The Great Tower at Dover Castle has recently undergone a £2.45 million re-interpretation project, whereas the exhibition at Portchester had a small revamp in 2004 but has been neglected since. The hypothesis for this project is that Dover Castle, having had embraced the latest and more sophisticated interpretative methods, will offer a more satisfying visitor experience than those that still rely on the more simple methods of interpretation found at Portchester Castle.

    Research methods include visitor surveys, site-visits and interviews with staff and heritage professionals at both sites. These aimed to fulfil the three main objectives of this project. These objectives included comparing the Ministry of Works approach to the presentation of medieval buildings to the more modern approach favoured by English Heritage, the analysis of visitor attitudes and opinions on the different types of interpretation encountered at these castles and, finally, the use of site-visits to critically evaluate both sites in order to produce conclusions as to how well the interpretative techniques used provide a pleasurable and meaningful experience for visitors.

    After in-depth examination of secondary literature and careful triangulation of data collected from the above research methods, the results of this dissertation indicate that people do not always need, or expect, expensive and flamboyant heritage experiences. The simple, relaxed atmosphere and high-quality exhibition at Portchester Castle was particularly appealing to visitors, where feedback on interpretive content was just as positive as that from visitors to Dover Castle. These findings, therefore, prove that interpretation should be the means and not the end, and that the quality of interpretation may be enhanced, though not limited to, the amount of publicity and funds available.

    Item Type: Dissertation
    Departments/Research Groups: Faculty of Technology > School of Civil Engineering and Surveying
    Depositing User: Jane Polwin
    Date Deposited: 01 Feb 2012 12:17
    Last Modified: 28 Jan 2015 11:52
    URI: http://eprints.port.ac.uk/id/eprint/6066

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