Intangible Heritage in Conservation Management Planning: the case of Robben Island
Deacon, H. Intangible Heritage in Conservation Management Planning: the case of Robben Island. 2004. International Journal of Heritage Studies 10(3): July, pp. 309-319.
Robben Island Museum officially commemorates ‘the triumph of the human spirit over adversity’, relating especially to the period of political imprisonment between 1961 and 1991 when Robben Island was most notorious as a political prison for the leaders of the anti‐apartheid struggle. Robben Island became a World Heritage Site in December 1999 because of its universal symbolic significance—its intangible heritage. This paper explores the implications for conservation management planning of interpreting and managing the intangible heritage associated with such sites. Examples will be drawn from the conservation planning exercise undertaken by the Robben Island Museum between 2000 and 2002. The paper will look specifically at how Robben Island’s symbolic significance has been defined and how competing interpretations should be included in the management plan. It then discusses the challenges around managing historic fabric whose significance is defined as primarily symbolic, and ways of safeguarding the intangible heritage associated with it.