Memory, oral history and conservation at Robben Island's Bluestone Quarry
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This article is a critical examination of a conservation project on the restoration of the Stone Wall at Bluestone Quarry on Robben Island, a world heritage site. The project attracted different stakeholders with diverse interests. The Stone Wall was originally built by political prisoners in the early 1960s as part of their hard labour. During the course of the project, issues relating to the authenticity of the Stone Wall arose which pointed to a conflict between cultural heritage and natural heritage on the site. The article focuses on the role of oral history as an approach to conservation and heritage management during the restoration project of the Stone Wall. It thus brings into the spotlight the role of memory-making in the conservation of historical fabric as well as the creation of cultural heritage. The central argument the article seeks to advance is that oral history and memory work helped to identify the appropriate design for the Stone Wall and thus improved the conservation of a significant historical site. Moreover, the memories of the ex-prisoners further enhanced the understanding and appreciation of symbolic meanings of suffering and triumph that the site embodies.