What you will study
Global heritage studies draws on understandings developed both by academics and professionals in museum and conservation fields. It offers a critical understanding of how professionals and other stakeholders make judgements about heritage and the underlying value systems on which these judgements are based.
Key questions include ‘What does heritage do?’ and ‘Who is heritage for?’. Some of the answers raise the connection between heritage and nationalism, and the notion that heritage is something created by social action.
You will learn about changing approaches to heritage and conservation in western and non-western societies from the eighteenth to early twenty-first centuries, focusing particularly on the global implications of the 1972 World Heritage Convention.
This module also looks to the future by identifying new directions in how people are defining heritage, including heritage of the contemporary world and heritage in virtual worlds. It is an opportunity for you to engage with heritage studies simultaneously as an area of academic enquiry, cultural meanings and practical application.
Understanding global heritage is presented through three, specially written, illustrated module books which provide a sound introduction to critical heritage studies as a global discipline. They use a range of international case studies which consider heritage at global, national and local levels.
Book 1 – Understanding the Politics of Heritage – is about the ways in which heritage can be exploited for political ends. It questions the view that heritage is necessarily ‘good’, and uncovers the ways in which heritage embodies relationships of power and subjugation, inclusion and exclusion, remembering and forgetting. It considers who is represented by heritage and who is excluded.
Book 2 – Understanding Heritage in Practice – is about the ways in which heritage is understood and experienced by professionals and by the public. It moves through different arenas of professional practice, such as art conservation, museum curatorship, site interpretation and natural heritage conservation. In each case, the notion that only heritage professionals or experts can successfully select and interpret heritage is being eroded by an increasingly powerful community of heritage enthusiasts and entrepreneurs. Opportunities for engaging with the past are expanding beyond traditional museums and sites. In this book you’ll examine the opening up of heritage to new audiences and new meanings by looking beyond the ways in which heritage is offered to the ways in which heritage is valued.
Book 3 – Understanding Heritage and Memory – is about the ways in which heritage adapts and is adapted to new circumstances. We often think of heritage as collective remembering, but war memorials and intangible aspects of culture, such as language and literature, can also function as tools for collective forgetting. The past we inherit and the present we create are both plagued with problems of commemoration.
An online study guide will direct you through each week’s readings and audio-visual materials, with exercises, discussion points and online quizzes. As well as the numerous, interesting case studies in the three books, specially commissioned video and audio pieces offer additional case studies to bring the issues to life. The internet provides valuable resources for studying heritage and this module will help you to learn more about this. Although some assignments will require internet use, you are not assumed to have highly developed online skills before you start.
This module will appeal to students interested in public policy, cultural and environmental heritage management, public history and archaeology, art and architectural conservation, museums, galleries and related sectors.