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The Heritage Industry

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  • UserDame Fiona Reynolds, Master of Emmanuel College & Dr Anna Whitelock, Director of Centre for Public History, Heritage & Engagement, Royal Holloway
  • ClockWednesday 13 November 2013, 17:00-18:30
  • HouseKnox Shaw Room, Sidney Sussex College.

If you have a question about this talk, please contact Dr Bernhard Fulda.

The second session of the Public & Popular History Seminar – this Wednesday 13 Nov, 5pm, Knox Shaw Room, Sidney Sussex College – will see a panel debate on the topic of “The Heritage Industry”, with Dame Fiona Reynolds, Master of Emmanuel College, Cambridge; former Director-General of National Trust & Dr Anna Whitelock, Director of Centre for Public History, Heritage and Engagement with the Past, Royal Holloway, London.

“Heritage” is a major part of the UK economy, and the National Trust the biggest player in this market. Since its foundation in 1895, it has grown to be one of the largest membership organisations in the world, with currently just under 4 million members, 70,000 volunteers, 20 million visitors, and a total income of over £450m (2012/13). As such, the NT is probably the biggest producer of ‘public history’ in the UK. But which public need is this heritage production serving? Are we essentially looking at the commodification of culture for middle-class contemporaries eager to build up cultural capital that will help them distinguish themselves from the lower classes? Why are heritage managers so heavily invested in the concept of “engagement”, and what are the major challenges they face? What political, historical and commercial concerns are driving the efforts to preserve and present certain aspects of the material past? Joining the former Director-General of the National Trust, Dame Fiona Reynolds on the panel is Dr Anna Whitelock, Director of the Centre for Public History, Heritage and Engagement with the Past, from Royal Holloway, London. The debate will be moderated by the Chairman of the Cambridge History Faculty, Professor David Reynolds.

Third-year history undergraduates facing a HAP exam in the not-too-distant future might like to take the opportunity to ask questions which could help them with aspects of certain possible exam questions. For preparation, or to follow up issued raised at the panel discussion, you might want to try some of the following reading suggestions: Peter Mandler, History and National Life (2002), esp. ch.5 David Cannadine (ed.), What is History Now? (2002) David Lowenthal, The Heritage Crusade and the Spoils of History (1996) G. Kavanagh (ed.), Making Histories in Museums (1996) Ludmilla Jordanova, History in Practice (2000), esp. ch. 6 Patrick Wright, On living in an old country : the national past in contemporary Britain (1985) Raphael Samuel, Theatres of memory vol. 1 & 2 (1994 & 1998) Carl E. Schorske, Thinking with History: Explorations in the passage to modernism (1998)

This talk is part of the Public and Popular History series.

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