The heritagescape: exploring the phenomenon of the heritage site

Garden, Mary-Catherine 

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Within the field of heritage studies-that discipline which considers the past from the perspective of the present - the concept of the heritage site is a key component. Yet, to date, the heritage site as a cultural phenomenon remains under-explored and poorly understood. Heritage sites form some of the essential building blocks of heritage and have an important and significant role in the development of individual and group identity and in the creation of a sense of the past. As physical places heritage sites - be they museums, ancient monuments or any other sort of place which has as a primary mandate the portrayal of "the past" - are relatively easy to recognise: as a cultural phenomenon they are much harder to grasp. In part, because these unique social spaces are so readily recognised, there has been a failure to develop a coherent and holistic methodology that may be used to assess the heritage site. Instead, many of our definitions of heritage (and its components) are based upon an innate understanding of the phenomenon of heritage. As such, we are left without an overarching characterisation of the heritage site. Previously, researchers addressing this problem have relied upon a methodology based upon a rigidly defined set of criteria. However, the number of different types of place that tend to be categorised as a "heritage site" means that (a) sites often are evaluated by a rigidly defined set of criteria which has been developed for one site but which may not necessarily be applicable to another and (b) the list of places considered as heritage sites varies widely amongst researchers and heritage practitioners. In short, we lack a consistent and coherent means of characterising and discussing heritage sites. Further, not only does this approach obscure the individual "personality" of a site, more importantly, it makes it impossible to identify those underlying processes that accompany a heritage site. This dissertation offers a new method of analysis: the heritagescape, which provides a coherent means by which sites may be evaluated. The heritagescape is predicated first on the understanding that all heritage sites are made up of a landscape and second, that there are universal processes which may be found at these sites. Critically, the heritagescape is made up of a set of "guiding principles" that allows features at an individual site to be assessed against a constant rather than against each other. Instead of imposing a set of criteria, the individual personality of a particular site begins to emerge and we are able to begin to discern those universal features that make heritage sites "work". This concept of the heritagescape represents a significant advance in the way that heritage sites may be discussed and offers notable, long term potential towards a greater theoretical and practical understanding of how heritage sites operate and how they may change over time.

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Awarding Institution
University of Cambridge
Magdalene College; Smuts Fund, University of Cambridge; Department of Anglo-Saxon, Norse and Celtic Studies; Dorothy Garrod Memorial Trust; Department of Archaeology