Industrial Heritage in an Era of Climate Catastrophe: Representing the Past, Re-imagining the Future

Authors: Carolyn Thompson*, Southern Connecticut State University
Topics: Urban Geography, Social Geography, United States
Keywords: urban geography, heritage, post-industrial cities, climate change, urban environmentalism
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/6/2019
Start / End Time: 8:00 AM / 9:40 AM
Room: Virginia C, Marriott, Lobby Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


The purpose of this presentation is to preliminarily explore the fruitfulness of understanding industrial heritage sites through the lens of environmental catastrophe in the 21st century. While geographers have been increasingly exploring heritage over the past few decades, concerned with its significance in terms of cultural and social representations, as well as an economic commodity, and industrial heritage has become more widely recognized as a key aspect of identity in the cities of the westernized world, research has overlooked the fascinating nexus between the industrial production marked in the sites of industrial heritage and the environmental outcomes of those processes. As heritage has been described as “a view from the present, either backward to a past or forward to a future” (Graham, Ashworth and Tunbridge 2000), the concerns of the present are integral in what we consider heritage and the meanings we imbue upon it. There is no concern more pressing in the present than the reality of climate change and environmental catastrophe and so this presentation considers exploring the interconnections between remembering the social and historical significance of industrial heritage sites and recognizing the ways these sites threaten our future. Through a preliminary case study of English Station, a disused power station on the Mill River in New Haven, CT, I will explore how this site represents the aspirations and progress of New Haven as an industrial, electrified, automobile city, as well as the current environmental catastrophes on our doorstep.

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