Responsible heritage: imagining Will

PhD Thesis

Keenan, Valerie Elizabeth. 2009. Responsible heritage: imagining Will. PhD Thesis Doctor of Philosophy. University of Southern Queensland.

Responsible heritage: imagining Will

TypePhD Thesis
AuthorKeenan, Valerie Elizabeth
SupervisorStewart, Robyn
Institution of OriginUniversity of Southern Queensland
Qualification NameDoctor of Philosophy
Number of Pages180

The dissertation and associated exhibition of artworks developed for this study are inspired by a collection of 74 hand written letters (Henry 1896-1906) penned by a late nineteenth-century Queensland grazier, my great-uncle, William Henry (Figure 1). The letters were written to his
brother Hugh Henry while William lived and worked on Queensland cattle properties (Figure 2), Tinnenburra (South West Queensland), Bellenden Plains and Glenora (North Queensland) between 1895 and 1906. William died of typhoid in 1907 at the age of 30.

An overarching concept, a cabinet of curiosities, is intended to act as a broad structure and point of
focus for this inter-disciplinary study which draws predominately from visuality, new historicism, and
ethnographic theory. The bric-a-brac for my cabinet includes theoretical analysis, studio practice,
Will’s letters, archival material, other narratives and collected objects, as well as the recording and
interpretation of experience, travel, process and systems.

My research focuses on cultural aspects that are mentioned in the collection of letters using objects, words and imagery as a means to analyse the way in which society presents or projects itself. I maintain that to experience society is to experience more than can be captured in words
alone and the aim is to saturate, even overwhelm, the senses, while still providing points of connection, intrigue and interest. My arts practice strives to see, interpret, represent and reflect on the interaction between people, their culture and the environments within which they live. Parallels and juxtapositions between nineteenth century and the present in Australia are particularly
significant as I respond to historical events, places, things and people in both periods and consider
how time has transformed meaning and understanding.

In this context, this study seeks to extend cultural and social understanding through the reevaluation
of an aspect of Queensland cultural history against and alongside lived experiences and contemporary concepts; to research and map individual and social memory; to interrogate the concept of identity specifically concentrating on issues of subject/object relations and cultural influence; to consider the role of language and communication; to develop the synthesis of the
visual as an integral element of research; to examine the role of artworks (past and present) and collectibles within culture and the museum; and to develop a sustainable model of arts practice. The written and visual responses that emerge as a result of this study imagine my response to Will.

Keywordsfamily history; cultural history
ANZSRC Field of Research 2020360104. Visual cultures
430302. Australian history
Byline AffiliationsFaculty of Arts
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