Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Kheira Anissa Tabet Aoul
Mahmoud A. Haggag
This dissertation investigates the role and contribution of the Historic Site Interpretation Centers in the process of meaning-making from the historic site to the visitors, as well as their visiting experience and attendance at the same settings. The Historic Site Interpretation Centers exhibit a unique museum typology dedicated to sites of historical significance, offering a dual-mode of interpretation, labeled as ‘in situ’ and ‘in context’. The objective was to evaluate the physical attributes and applied display strategies in conveying meaning from historic sites to visitors and, to explore the resulting stakeholders’ (i.e. service providers and visitors) perception and emotional experience in these dual settings. Hence, a convergent mixed method of multiple case-study analysis was used to evaluate the given settings’ physical attributes, and multi-ethnographic tools inclusive of archival documents, online survey, semi-structured open-ended interviews, and non-obtrusive observation were used to explore the stakeholders’ perception and emotional experience. Four historical sites in Bahrain were selected: Qal’at Al Bahrain, Shaikh Salman bin Ahmed Al Fateh Fort, Bu Maher Fort, and Al Khamis Mosque. The findings suggest that visitation interest and meaning-making are primarily affected by first, a range of different contextual relationships between the Historic Site Interpretation Centers and their historic sites, building physical attributes, and display strategies. Second, visitors’ interests and expectations are the main trigger for visitation, while their cultural background and collective memory are recognized as influential factors in the process of meaning-making. The difficulty in creating meaning-making may reside in a single or a combination of factors: a rigid de-contextualization of objects, an architectural design of the interpretive center insensitive to the particularities of the location, presentation strategies ineffective enough to generate a disinterest among visitors. Undoubtedly, the present situation of historic sites in Bahrain affiliates itself to the ever-present debate on the philosophical groundings of Critical Regionalism from its generation in the early 80s of the last century to its present and undeniable actuality and force. This research acknowledges the original reasons and ideological perspective behind its inception and the contemporary critical readings of the same text in the light of new economic, environmental, political concerns and design challenges. While understanding some of the concerns and challenges that drove architectural production since the concept was coined, this research’s intention is to remain close to the essence of Critical Regionalism, which is to effectively understand the importance of a context while designing appropriate structures easily interpreted by visitors, and capable to generate coherent meaning-making within a specific setting. Finally, a new classification of museums is suggested on the basis of contextual relationships to the historic site and the involvement of dual modes of interpretation - ‘in situ’ and ‘in context’ - in order to overcome the existing dichotomy in the contribution and role of such museums. In addition, this study’s ambition is to provide some design and curatorship directions for architects, museographers, and policymakers in Bahrain and beyond.
Al Saffar, May Jalal, "INVESTIGATING THE CONTRIBUTION OF HISTORIC SITE INTERPRETATION CENTERS TO MEANING-MAKING: THE CASE OF BAHRAIN" (2020). Dissertations. 121.