Historian Dr Ben Schrader announced as 2022 JD Stout Fellow

History scholar Dr Ben Schrader is taking up the JD Stout Fellowship at Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington to investigate what we protect through conservation and why. 

 “Cultural heritage helps to fabricate collective social identities,” says Dr Schrader. “I am interested in exploring what motivated people to conserve particular buildings and places in the past.”

Dr Schrader is an urban historian with expertise in the history of cities, housing, and the built environment. His book on historic cities, The Big Smoke: New Zealand Cities 1840–1920, won the 2017 W. H. Oliver Prize and the 2017 NZ Heritage Non-fiction Book Award, as well as being shortlisted for the New Zealand Book Awards, along with his previous book, We Call It Home: a History of State Housing in New Zealand (2005) 

Beginning in March 2022, Dr Schrader will pursue his project, titled ‘Fabricating Identities: A History of Historic Conservation in Aotearoa,’ with the benefit of the connection with University academics such as Associate Professor Maria Bargh from Te Kawa a Māui, Professor Charlotte MacDonald from the History programme, and Dr Nigel Isaacs from the School of Architecture.

This project has been on his mind since he was young. “When I was a child growing up in 1970s Wellington, I used to admire the Victorian and Edwardian buildings that lined Lambton Quay,” says Dr Schrader.

“When almost all of them were demolished in the 1980s, I decided that one day, I’d like to find out why Aotearoa’s cultural heritage is so often detroyed.”

He plans to use case studies to scrutinise how heritage was socially constructed in the past and the present.

“I will look at the efforts in the 1900s to preserve Māori archaeological and battle sites, the push during the 1930s to conserve  the Waitangi Treaty House as a national monument, and several other campaigns that saw significant changes in what different communities wanted preserved and why,” says Dr Schrader.

Dr Schrader will use traditional archival sources, as well as interviews with Pākehā and Māori heritage practitioners, along with government and community organisations, to complete his research.

“I’m also spatially analysing sites where historic places still stand, or where they have been demolished and rebuilt.”

 Professor Jim McAloon, acting director of the Stout Research Centre, says, “The J.D. Stout fellowship supports wide-ranging work on all aspects of Aotearoa’s history, society, and culture. We know Ben will carry this on, with a thoughtful, well-grounded work on the history of heritage in Aotearoa that will inform current and future debates on the topic.”

This month sees the publication of 2020 Stout fellow Dr Max Rashbrooke’s new book, Too Much Money: How wealth disparities are unbalancing Aotearoa New Zealand (Bridget Williams Books).

The Stout Research Centre was founded in 1984 with the support of the Stout Trust, and as well as hosting the JD Stout Fellow, is home to the University’s Museum and Heritage Studies programme and the Treaty of Waitangi Research Unit.

Post a comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.