Understanding the Heritage

Article excerpt

Obviously sites, monuments and finds like those we have just encountered need looking after. Cue the heritage, which includes curation but also a whole lot more, as the next few books demonstrate.

RODNEY HARRISON (ed.). Understanding the politics of heritage, xvi+336 pages, 92 illustrations. 2010. Manchester & New York: Manchester University Press; 978-0-7190-8152-1 paperback 24.99 [pounds sterling].

SUSIE WEST (ed.). Understanding heritage and practice. xvi+340 pages, 78 illustrations. 2010. Manchester & New York: Manchester University Press; 978-0-71908154-5 paperback 24.99 [pounds sterling].

TIM BENTON (ed.). Understanding heritage and memory, xvi+344 pages, 89 illustrations. 2010. Manchester & New York: Manchester University Press; 978-0-7190-8153-8 paperback 24.99 [pounds sterling].

MARY BOWMAN-KRUHM. The Leakeys: a biography. 184 pages, 5 plates. 2010. Amherst (NY): Prometheus; 978-1-59102-761-4 paperback $17.

A set of three new textbooks which began as Open University courses and are now published by Manchester University Press should set up students and libraries of institutions that offer heritage courses nicely: over 1000 pages for about 75 [pounds sterling]. They are well put together, unashamedly didactic, intelligently illustrated and each chapter follows a dear pattern: exposition, case study, reflection and conclusion, followed by a list of references and suggested further reading. Each book is complemented by a glossary and an index, sometimes also appendices. The vastly expanded field of heritage studies has been divided into three volumes: politics, practice and memory, each edited by a main author (who contribute much to the eight chapters in each volume) working in tandem with Open University colleagues (5 in HARRISON's book, 9 each in WEST and BENTON). All three take account of recent discussions in heritage circles and encourage students to think through the implications of heritage decisions, particularly concerning the Authorised Heritage Discourse (or AHD), a concept put forward and critiqued by Laurajane Smith. To summarise what is in each book would take far more words than this column allows. Suffice to say that the books tackle a broad mesh of entangled concepts in clear language: purpose, authenticity, the idea of a canon, subjectivity, universality, representativeness, tangible and intangible heritage, manipulation, sanitisation, relationships of power, pluralism, multiculturalism, tourism, globalisation and more. …