ASU student committed to preservation, conservation of world-heritage sites

By

Lynne MacDonald

Doctoral student Ashley Wheeler believes in the importance of protecting cultural world heritage.

This summer Wheeler is part of an international team that will study and help create new doctrines that guide worldwide heritage management practices.

Wheeler, a doctoral student in the Hugh Downs School of Human Communication, is one of thirteen graduate students and young professionals from all over the world chosen to participate in the International Exchange Program for the U.S. National Committee of the International Council of Monuments and Sites (US/ICOMOS).

“I feel very fortunate to have been selected to participate in the incredible experience of working for an international organization on a project with multinational partners,” Wheeler said.

She will spend the next ten weeks of summer in New Delhi, India helping a firm complete a Conservation Management Plan for the site of a large industrial disaster.

The industrial disaster which occurred over 30 years ago is estimated to be one of the world's largest industrial disasters and is still impacting people today.

Ashley shared the following answers about her summer research project prior to her departure for the program’s orientation in Washington, D.C.

Question: Why did you select this international program to attend?

Answer: ICOMOS is an incredible organization that promotes interdisciplinary collaboration across the world. The organization is committed to helping people globally connect with and protect their heritage. In this spirit, they promote and facilitate the exchange of ideas across cultures.  It is the only non-governmental international organization of its kind, making it an ideal organization for partnerships and unbiased advocacy. The organization is instrumental in crafting doctrines guiding heritage management practices worldwide.

The International Exchange Program provides opportunities to connect with top professionals in preservation and heritage conservation management and offers an extensive alumni network for future career possibilities. This project will provide me the experience needed to pursue a career in the preservation and conservation fields after graduation.

Q: What is the anticipated results from the Conservation Management Plan project that you will be working on?

A: The company I will be working for is in the process of creating a memorial for the industrial disaster. The Conservation Management Plan will help move the project forward by proposing best practices for the conservation of the site of the tragedy. There are still many unknowns about the extent of residual contamination at the site and I will help conduct research that will help them decide what conservation methods will be utilized at the site. I will be communicating with other conservation firms around the world to compile information about the successes and failures of other similar projects. 

Q: Will your international project translate into something that can be incorporated into an ASU classroom or benefit to ASU?

A: The project will help me gain insight into multinational organizations which I can use as I teach and conduct research at ASU. I will make international connections that may create new opportunities for other ASU researchers and it will also be beneficial for my future research opportunities. This project is highly interdisciplinary and I will gain experience working with people in various fields from various cultures.

Q: What are some of the takeaways you hope to gain from this international experience?

A: It will provide an opportunity for me to learn from other people who have significantly different educational training than me. Likewise, I will be able to bring something interesting to the table from my communication education. I also plan to establish a network of potential collaborators that that will help me pursue research and other projects with likeminded academics and practitioners. 

During my time in India, I plan to conduct additional research about memory and communication practices in India which will further my current research on time perception and memory.