Trinidad Rico gave a Brown Bag Lunch presentation on Tuesday, October 31, at 12:15 pm. Her talk was entitled “Heritage, Secrecy, and Failure: The Atomic Project Huemul.”

In the early 1950s, the Huemul Island in the Nahuel Huapi National Park of Argentina became host to a short-lived secret nuclear fusion experiment. The site was extensively built but quickly abandoned and has remained since in a state of ruin, with the small exception of a failed attempt to “heritagize” this island in the 1990s. Extreme censorship during and after this project has resulted in practically no archival sources that could help support the construction of a heritage narrative for Huemul Island, except through fragmented popular accounts and material remains. This is a rare example of the constructive and disruptive role of secrecy on heritage value, and the creative ways in which a heritage of failure can be studied.

Trinidad Rico is Assistant Professor and Director of Cultural Heritage and Preservation Studies (CHAPS) at Rutgers University, and Senior Honorary Lecturer at the Institute of Archaeology of University College London. Her areas of research in critical heritage include risk, ethnography, and the vernacularization of heritage discourses and expertise. Her current research projects focus on the mobilization of Islamic values in the Arabian Peninsula and the study of heritage and secrecy in South America.