After the asylum: value, stigma, and strategic forgetting in three historic former asylums.

Carolyn Gibbeson*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)
30 Downloads (Pure)


The value of an object or building requires people to view it as something worthy of being valued in the first place, whether economically or culturally. When buildings are valued for their heritage nature, the redevelopment of these buildings is often controversial and contentious. This process is more complicated for historic buildings with negative or stigmatised pasts, such as former asylums. Such buildings are often difficult to access, and stakeholders rarely want to talk about the respective histories – leading to little research in this area. In response, this article examines this controversial domain through the lens of building redevelopment. This is because, at the point of redevelopment, perceptions of value come to the fore and coalesce, giving rise to conflict and debate regarding which type(s) of value are deemed most important by respective stakeholder groups. The article provides a new cross-disciplinary approach that blends academic literature from the disciplines of geography, heritage and real estate with data from practitioners in order to understand the multiplicity of viewpoints that relate to historic sites with difficult histories. Situated within a sample of three former asylum redevelopments, semi-structured interviews with developers, planners, and heritage body professionals have been carried out to understand the values attributed to each site as new use is negotiated. Original findings indicate that aesthetic considerations are ascribed most value. However, this finding is situated within a more complicated picture of the sites’ history. Conclusions suggest that an “acceptable level” of stigma was present which enabled the sites redevelopment without the often-seen controversy of heritage redevelopments
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)566-580
Number of pages15
JournalInternational Journal of Heritage Studies
Issue number6
Early online date26 Apr 2023
Publication statusPublished - 3 Jun 2023

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