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How things began: the origins of geological conservation

Philip Doughty
Philip Doughty
14 Orchard Rise, Belfast BT8 7DA UK (e-mail:
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January 01, 2008


The origins of geoconservation cannot be investigated without first defining its scope. This presents a problem because there is no established working definition of the field. By using the Giant's Causeway as a case study, useful parameters were identified revealing great complexity. They embrace initial curiosity, scientific communication, mythology, access issues, the involvement of national scientific institutions, controversial but ultimately successful iconography, the invention of new artistic conventions, dissemination by engraving, scientific reaction, rekindling of a fundamental geological controversy, tourism, popular literature, modes of transport, commercialization, additions to fundamental science, designation history and historic associations of the site. Other sites are similarly complex and assist in refining the scope. Sites are seen as the principal resource but on analysis achieve their status from what they reveal or the importance of the materials they yield, in turn spotlighting the major museum collections. These are now well documented though not all are secure. It was not the scientific imperative that established the first public designation but an impassioned delight in unspoiled nature which three men, two Americans, Henry Thoreau and George Marsh but especially the Scots environmentalist, John Muir, projected carefully into the attuned ear of the US President. This brief overview closes with the revelation of neglected areas of heritage, paths that geoconservation could have taken and still may and suggests how earlier definitions could be elevated into a more specific and holistic geoconservation strategy.

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Figures & Tables


Geological Society, London, Special Publications

The History of Geoconservation

C. V. Burek
C. V. Burek
University of Chester, UK
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C. D. Prosser
C. D. Prosser
Natural England, UK
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Geological Society of London
ISBN electronic:
Publication date:
January 01, 2008




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