ACL Project List
 
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2013

A PROGRAM FOR THE CONSERVATION, INTERPRETATION, AND REUSE OF DOWNDRAFT KILNS AT THE WESTERN CLAY MANUFACTURING COMPANY OF HELENA, MONTANA

Brett Sturm
Abstract

This project's focus is the complex of five downdraft brick kilns and sheds (built between 1905 and 1922), which drove production at Western Clay until at least 1957 and now constitutes an iconic backdrop for the Archie Bray Foundation, one of the country's foremost centers for contemporary ceramic art. The goal of the project was to provide the Bray with a series of recommendations for how the kilns might be stabilized, interpreted to the public, and put to new use. Three chapters—a contextual history of brick kilns; a diagnostic, materials-based analysis of the Western Clay prototypes; and a discussion of industrial heritage conservation and relevant, clay-related case studies—culminate in the delivery of the said recommendations as a final, concluding chapter—the conservation program. Oral histories, publications in industrial archaeology, and period trade literature pertaining to brick-firing form the bulk of the thesis' resource base. A symptomatic conditions survey of a kiln exterior and a series of laboratory tests run on kiln brick and soil samples inform the materials-based portions of the study. Ultimately, the stabilization and limited reuse of the kilns as exhibition and performance spaces are encouraged, as is the formation of partnerships with organizations striving, like the Bray, to institute craft- and art-making at sites traditionally employed in the manufacture of goods using similar media.

 

2012

(IN)FORMING AND PRESSING MATTERS: LAYING THE FOUNDATIONS FOR THE PRESERVATION AND INTERPRETATION OF THE WESTERN CLAY MANFUACTURING COMPANY

Sharon Reid
Abstract

Western Clay site, unique in its survival, is poised to tell the little-known but important social, technological, and industrial histories of late nineteenth- and early-twentieth century brickyards. Resulting from in-depth historical research, this thesis details the significance of Western Clay and offers suggestions as to how best to begin to reinvest the site with historical memories. In an effort to revitalize, not elide important histories through the removal of buildings, machinery and infrastructural elements that might otherwise fulfill important mnemonic functions and provide both educational and identity-constructing functions for both present and future generations, this work also furnishes the manufactory’s stewards and supporters with a site-specific, historically informed rationale for future preservation decision-making. This rationale is grounded in the scholar Ned Kaufman’s concept of “storyscapes” and is informed by both the aforementioned body of historical research and a general conditions assessment that was created during the summer of 2011.