Dissonant Heritage

By Tunbridge and Ashworth, 1996

  • Inflation of meanings [of heritage]
  • Intrinsic dangers in the rapidly extending uses of the word… precision is lost… conceals issues and magnifies problems intrinsic to the creation and management of heritage that are the concern of this book.
  • The central argument… derives initially from the misgivings outlined above and the paradoxes that arise if the attempt is made to meet them.
  • This introductory chapter… answer… ‘What is heritage?’, ‘Who decides what is heritage?’, ‘Why, and for whom, is heritage created?’ This process will reveal the underlying difficulties and contradictions that are at the hear of our argument.
  • Heritage so defined makes its own peculiar use of the time dimension but… also possesses a strong intrinsic spatial component: both are the cause of dilemmas.
    • Both the consideration of heritage as a ‘product’, and its relation specifically to places, raise the kinds of tensions inherent in all products and specifically in all place products.
  • The expansion of the word leads to a concealment of issues and magnifies problems intrinsic to the creation and managemnet of heritage that are the concern of this book. There are three misgivings:
    • Socio-economic: commercialisation of heritage is bad
    • Resource: exploitation of historic resources for the creation of heritage inevitably affects the nature of those resources… ‘destructive’, ‘dishonest’
    • Socio-political: The dominance of a concern for the recall and reconsturction of an imagined past over finding a solution for the difficulties of the present and a shaping of the future is a denial of the possibility of change and thus a reinforcement of the present status quo. 
  • … Endeavouring to replace the heritage industry, which is a response to contemporary needs, with a return to the ‘real’ industry of the Industrial Revolution can equally be seen as a failure to meet the challenges of the future by a retreat into a previously successful but now obsolete economy. 

The Past, History and Heritage

  • Both history and heritage conceive of, and use, the past in similar ways.

Ashworth Dissonent processes.JPG

(above is the heritage model)

The Exercise of Choice (in the heritage industry)

… The production of heritage becomes a matter for deliberate goal-directed choice about what uses are made of the past for what contemporary purposes. It is thus inherently a planned system; the questions of who plans and for what purposes remain open, the necessity for intervention does not. The deliberate exercise of choice is thus inherent at many points in the above process model… However, this is not a closed system and it is this inherent openness that makes deliberate intervention both possible and necessary.

Critique, rejection or modification of the model

  1. Conceptual objections: revulsion to commodification
    1. But: aesthetic pleasures or satisfactions are in themselves a consumption… These types of objections focus upon the nature of interpretation and presentation
  2. Operational objections: definition of heritage in terms of its users threatens to cause irreversible damage to the resources upon which it is based
    1. The recycling, renewal and recuperation of resources, increasingly important in the management of natural resources, can be paralleled in historic resources where objects including buildings can be moved, restored and even replicated. Resource damage and depletion is a result of inadequate management and is therefore responsive to more efficient management of such resources, within which the deliberate manipulation of created heritage can be valuable instrument.

[He is arguing that commodification should be studied instead of condemned]