Weather Affects: Evaluating its experiential impact on heritage visitors and conservation practice

  • Katie Mills

Student thesis: Phd


Abstract ‘To me, it just looks like they’ve been here forever, rain or shine’ (Appendices This thesis seeks to explore the potential role of weather and weathering in the experience of various forms of stone heritage from around the UK. Weathering processes are considered to simultaneously contribute to aesthetic qualities of aging and patina, as well as a complex range of decaying and erosive processes. Thus, this project also examines the tensions between the desire to manage and control weathering processes, alongside the potential experiential and affective qualities that weather, nature and landscape produce. Using six case study sites, which include two rock art sites, two ruined sites and two collections of medieval sculptured stones, this project employs weather and other atmospheric conditions to reflect upon the complex range of beliefs, understanding and social practices that are encompassed in visitor experiences of stone heritage. In practice a concern for physical preservation has tended to override concerns for the intangible, experiential and atmospheric (Jones, 2009, p. 142). With weather historically often being perceived purely as a source of harm, as opposed to having creation value. Consequently, conservation practice is largely based upon scientific investigation of deterioration, often caused by weathering, and interventional treatments to restore material stability to objects (Elizabeth Pye, 2001). Most recently, large-scale climate change, and its impact on localised weather conditions, has emerged as a central focus of heritage science. The ramifications of this being that academic methodologies, such as object biographies and exploration of contemporary experiential understandings have at times been marginalised. So, although weather has been extensively explored in terms of weathering and decay, and more so recently in terms of climate change, there has been relatively scant amounts of research that tackles the experiential and intangible influence of weather and nature on heritage (Ingold, 2010, 132; Jones, 2009, 141-142). Hence, the research objectives of this thesis are broadly interested in exploring the experiential impact and patinating qualities of weather, landscape, nature and seasonal variation in order to determine how they affect visitor interpretation and feelings of ‘authenticity’, ‘pastness’, age value, nostalgia and awe (e.g.: Jones, 2009, 2010; Holtorf, 2013; Jones and Yarrow, 2013; Douglas-Jones et al., 2016). These visitor interpretations also allow for critical exploration of the impact of heritage management and conservation measures on multi-sensorial engagements with stone heritage and their surrounding environments. Consequently, I argue that the influence of weather, nature and methods of conservation and presentation of stone heritage have the ability to either enhance and/or diminish visitors’ interactions and understandings and in turn their value and emotive connections to these sites. Ultimately, by using the experiential influence of weather and nature as a lens through which to examine visitor interactions, understandings and value, this thesis showcases how visitors are active participants in both the experience of stone heritage and its conservation. Therefore, in order to achieve greater holistic approaches to heritage conservation and management that encompasses both the tangible and intangible characteristics of heritage sites, it is necessary for heritage institutions to make greater use of both qualitative methods and in turn multi-sensorial visitor engagements.
Date of Award1 Aug 2019
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester
SupervisorHannah Cobb (Supervisor) & Melanie Giles (Supervisor)


  • Conservation
  • Authenticity
  • Pastness
  • Visitor engagement
  • Atmosphere
  • Stone
  • Age Value
  • Heritage
  • Aura
  • Tangible
  • Affect
  • Landscape
  • Seasonality
  • Decay
  • Weathering
  • Intangible
  • Weather

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