Are Urban Explorers Heritage Activists?: The ‘Eternal Drabness’ of DeHoCo

“[Urban exploration] is a community of people who by their inherent nature break rules and expectations. Expecting them to then follow the rules of a community is patently absurd” (Garret 2013: 33).

Pablo Arboleda,  a Ph.D. student at Bauhaus-University Weimar, recently published an interesting article in the International Journal of Heritage Studies that argues for urban exploration as a type of bottom-up heritage activism.

In this post, I’ll discuss Arboleda’s argument and apply it to my own varied experiences as an urban explorer, anthropologist/archaeologist, and instructor of college courses about the politics of exploring and representing neglected spaces. I’ll also discuss recent visits I’ve made to the abandoned Detroit House of Correction (DeHoCo) and the role that urban exploration plays (or has the potential to play) in memorializing this soon-to-be-demolished site.

Continue reading “Are Urban Explorers Heritage Activists?: The ‘Eternal Drabness’ of DeHoCo”

Awakening to Ruins

I’m reading through Robert Ginsberg’s The Aesthetics of Ruin (2004) again and came across this wonderful poem he wrote about the different options for a ruin (120):

Awakening to ruins necessitates making choices. These choices of what to do about the ruins are choices of who the community is.

Choice for Ruin

tear it down

rebuild it

leave it alone

forget about it

build on top of it

move it to a museum

clean it up

use it for something else

landscape it

pave around it for a parking lot

put in a service road

forbid highway access

fence it in

erect a ticket booth

write a guidebook for it

sell reproductions and postcards

permit guided tours

make it a national monument

seek designation as a World Heritage Site

denounce it as a local eyesore

mow the grass

let it grow

put in lighting

put on sound-and-light shows

sell ice cream

install toilets

add gift shop

tear down contiguous structures

employ guardians

advertise on posters

distribute brochures

build interpretive center

introduce telephones

sell color film

support scholarly research

open tea house.

Source

Ginsberg, Robert. 2004. The Aesthetics of Ruins. New York: Rodopi.