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Towards understandings of visitor experiences and practices that shape new meanings of place at National Trust sites

Cope, Gillian


Gillian Cope


The National Trust face a new set of challenges in recent years; as one of the most influential heritage bodies in the UK, it is responsible for the preservation and protection of a large number of diverse sites from historic buildings to woodland. Yet this is set against a backdrop of complex set of challenges: creating an active dialogue with those who visit its sites and other stakeholders, such as the local community; ensuring their sites are preserved while, at the same time, encouraging access; on-going climate change and environmental risks; changing cultural, social and economic frameworks. The aim for the National Trust is to better understand how places might be managed differently in the light of these challenges.

This research builds on existing quantitative research conducted by the National Trust by examining how the engagement, embodiment and practice of visitors, staff and volunteers at National Trust sites informs a sense of place. The research employs a mixed method approach using qualitative ethnographic techniques. The methods of video and audio capture were used to explore and engage with the highly complex processes practiced at the sites and capture the non-verbal, pre cognitive and emotive ways in which people engage with site. From this insight, the research makes a conceptual contribution to knowledge by examining how site based practice informs emotional engagement and affect of place and how this experience produces a sense of place for people within National Trust sites.

Traditionally, the National Trust has put the physical aspects of a site at the heart of the visitor experience, whereas my research serves to demonstrate how an individual makes sense of a place through their own experiences, memories, cultural identity and uses these lenses to understand the world and their own identity. Furthermore, the research demonstrates that places are not fixed concepts but formed in an on-going, iterative way where multiple, sometimes competing, memories, emotions and affects are produced and that a place making is messy, interwoven with multiple, sometimes competing rhythms, emotions, affects and how this sense of place gets carried over time and space. The contribution that this research makes, therefore, is in extending the insights into how place can change people to how people change place within the context of National Trust sites.


Cope, G. Towards understandings of visitor experiences and practices that shape new meanings of place at National Trust sites. (Thesis). University of the West of England

Thesis Type Thesis
Keywords National Trust, visitors, sense of place
Additional Information Corporate Creators : National Trust


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