For Whom Was Built This Special Shell?’ Exploring the adaptive use of religious buildings as museums, galleries and cultural centres

Faulkner, Rebecca (2015) For Whom Was Built This Special Shell?’ Exploring the adaptive use of religious buildings as museums, galleries and cultural centres. PhD thesis, Birkbeck, University of London.

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Abstract

Religious buildings have, for centuries, occupied a crucial position at the heart of our civic centres; anchoring communities through an emphasis on ritual, tradition and continuity. In recent years as urban neighbourhood perimeters shift in response to waves of immigration, and the cohesive congregations that supported them disperse, many buildings face abandonment or closure. In the last twenty‐five years a number of houses of worship have been adapted into museums and venues for cultural exchange, aiming to honour and interpret the religious history of the building while promoting dialogue with a diverse local community. This thesis explores the trend for adapting and converting houses of worship into museums and cultural centres. It assesses three unique sites as case studies: a former synagogue in London’s East End, a functioning synagogue on the Lower East Side of New York, and a former Methodist church in Cape Town, South Africa, as well as emerging sites located in active Anglican churches in London and the south east. My thesis postulates that former sacred places can be re‐animated by an arts group responding to the building’s spiritual legacy; utilising it to demonstrate a powerful link between the existing community and its early congregants. I argue that multiuse buildings which promote secular cultural programming while continuing to house a congregation may appeal to members of the public who do not necessarily identify with mainstream museum culture. This presents the field of museum studies with a new model for the ‘participatory’ museum: a landmark building which can respond to the distinct needs of a multi‐faith, ‘multicentred’ society. The analysis my thesis provides locates my work within at the intersection of theory and practice, and within broader developments in the disciplines of cultural, urban and museum studies, providing a socio‐historical perspective on a new kind of museum. It is intended to be used as a modus operandi for adaptive use by religious buildings.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Copyright Holders: The copyright of this thesis rests with the author, who asserts his/her right to be known as such according to the Copyright Designs and Patents Act 1988. No dealing with the thesis contrary to the copyright or moral rights of the author is permitted.
School/Department: London Consortium
Depositing User: ORBIT Editor
Date Deposited: 12 Feb 2015 14:05
Last Modified: 02 Dec 2016 12:47
URI: http://bbktheses.da.ulcc.ac.uk/id/eprint/115

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