There is a well-established call for more attention to contested and dissonant cultural heritage in the public memory of historic places, particularly in attending to ethnic, class, and gendered experiences. Although hailing the contributions made to date, critics have also observed that the results have tended to be confined to symbolic or rhetorical effects. Utilizing the insights of engaged anthropology, we examine the potential of a community-engaged, collaborative research design that integrates oral history, archaeology, and archival research as a means of building a polyvocal public memory. The study is carried out “in place” at a long-sacred public plaza that has been the subject of interpretive controversy for many decades. We suggest that the combination of oral history and archaeological methodologies, carried out simultaneously and on-site with the community, enables an interplay of material, spatial, and discursive perspectives that moves contested cultural heritage from “narrative to action.”

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