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Prison Heritage, Public History and Archaeology at Fannie Bay Gaol, Northern Australia

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Prisons play an important role in the Australian psyche. As places in which the lawless element of society is incarcerated they possess a resonance that harks back to the stereotyped and mythologised convict foundations of the Australian nation. Many former places of confinement have been transformed into publicly accessible heritage sites and museums, but visitor numbers often do not reflect the widespread public interest in confinement. It is not at all clear how to engage the public with the individual histories of these places. This paper examines this issue by reference to the public display of Fannie Bay Gaol prison museum in Darwin. Changing themes and foci in the display of this site are discussed. The role of the historian and archaeologist is examined in the context of the public presentation of narratives of the Gaol's past.
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Keywords: Australia; Darwin; Gaol Museums; Prison Heritage; Public History and Archaeology; Visitor Numbers

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: January 1, 2003

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