Comparing Criteria: Assessing the Significance of Memorials

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Lisa Murray


This article focuses on the practicalities of assessing the cultural significance of memorials. It outlines the main criteria that are currently in use in New South Wales – The Burra Charter, the NSW Heritage Branch assessment criteria and the National Trust’s Heritage Values for Cemeteries – and considers which are the most appropriate to apply to memorials. In doing this it highlights the inadequacies of significance criteria in capturing the memorial process and contested memories that are often attached to memorials. The philosophical question of when a memorial becomes heritage is also considered; and whether the act of heritage listing is a form of memorialisation in itself. This article draws upon the work of the Cemeteries Committee, a conservation technical committee of the National Trust of Australia (NSW).

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Author Biography

Lisa Murray, Historian, City of Sydney council

Dr Lisa Murray is a historian at the City of Sydney council. Her research interests include urban and social history, cemeteries, cultural landscapes, memory and heritage. She is currently Vice President of the History Council of NSW and Chair of the National Trust Cemeteries Committee.