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“The Eternal Drabness of DeHoCo”: Documenting and Memorializing Built Heritage Through Urban Exploration in Detroit

  • Kaeleigh Herstad
Chapter
Part of the One World Archaeology book series (WORLDARCH)

Abstract

There are over 40,000 vacant and blighted structures in Detroit, Michigan, and the city now demolishes an average of 150 of them each week. In the rush to clear the landscape and make way for new development, local histories and the physical sites associated with them are often lost or marginalized, and in the de facto absence of official city preservation efforts, local and nonlocal urban explorers step in to document structures before they are demolished or otherwise removed from the landscape. This process often involves extensive archival research into the life-history of a site and making the information they find publicly available online.

This chapter examines the valuable and controversial roles that urban explorers play in recognizing and memorializing Detroit’s built heritage. I draw on data from participant-observation with urban explorers and local heritage activists, as well as an analysis of online websites and forums dedicated to documenting Detroit’s vacant historic structures, to argue for urban exploration as a bottom-up process of heritage creation and management in the Metro Detroit region.

Keywords

Urban blight Urban exploration Dark heritage Preservation 

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Further Reading

  1. For a much more thorough treatment of some of the issues mentioned here, I recommend reviewing Laura McAtackney’s extensive work on Long Kesh/Maze prison in Northern Ireland, specifically An Archaeology of the Troubles: The Dark Heritage of Long Kesh/Maze prison (2014); Eleanor Conlin Casella’s The Archaeology of Institutional Confinement (2007); and Suzanne Spencer-Wood and Sherene Baugher’s introductory article to a relevant special issue of the International Journal of Historical Archaeology, “Introduction and Historical Context for the Archaeology of Institutions of Reform. Part One: Asylums” (2001). I would also recommend “Prisoners of War, Archaeology, Memory, and Heritage of 19th- and 20th-Century Mass Internment,” Mytum, Harold, Carr, Gilly (eds) (Springer 2013) and “Archaeologies of Internment,” Editors: Myers, Adrian, Moshenska, Gabriel (eds) (Springer 2011).Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Kaeleigh Herstad
    • 1
  1. 1.Indiana University Department of AnthropologyBloomingtonUSA

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