The 1999 restoration of the 1941 New Harmony Labyrinth Temple

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Branigin, Susan R.
Glass, James A.
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Thesis (M.S.H.P.)
Department of Architecture
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The purpose of this thesis is to examine the integration of modern historic preservation laws, ethics, and techniques with the practical management of historic sites. The planned restoration (1999-2001) of the New Harmony, Indiana Labyrinth Temple by its managing entity, Historic New Harmony, provided an opportunity for the investigation of questions relevant to the application, in terms of accepted historic preservation practices, of the correct preservation treatment of state-owned cultural resources. A central question of this thesis was whether early New Harmony preservation efforts deemed by some to be more "historicism" than "history" possessed actual historical value. Of further interest was the relationship between implementation of the correct preservation treatment at the subject historic site and the resultant effects of that treatment upon its historic interpretation to the visiting public.This thesis examines the activity of the first New Harmony Memorial Commission in late-1930s/early 1940s New Harmony, Indiana. To provide context for the New Harmony activity, contemporaneous national and state preservation efforts are also studied.The thesis also examines Historic New Harmony's initial plan to restore the Labyrinth Temple. Failures of that initial plan include omission of basic historic preservation principles, specifically the lack of required regulatory oversight of the planned activity by the Indiana SHPO's office (Section 106 compliance). The "restoration" plan developed by Historic New Harmony advocated the implementation of incorrect treatments of the Temple's structural components, decorative elements, and interpretive signage. In effect, Historic New Harmony's restoration plan was more "historicism" than "historic preservation."This investigation of the Labyrinth Temple finds contextual validity in the preservation activity of the first New Harmony Memorial Commission, as well as relevance of that activity to the history of Indiana's historic preservation movement. These facts, in consideration with other factors, are reflected in the development herein of a procedurally correct project plan based on historic preservation laws, ethics, and techniques, as well as the inclusion of the historic site's entire story.