Magazine article History Today

Heritage Is Good for You

Magazine article History Today

Heritage Is Good for You

Article excerpt

THE CONCEPT OF HERITAGE has always been a bit elusive. Once it seemed to carry resonances of genteel country dancing; then it became laden with the paraphernalia of aristocratic splendour and military glory. But in the last ten years or so, new layers of meaning have accreted to the word. It has come to imply everything about the past that anyone, anywhere, may find interesting or important. And now, even more than before, it has a moral component: it is something with which everyone is encouraged to engage.

In this guise, the word fits seamlessly into the modern matrix of cultural management: one that includes buzzwords like 'access' and 'community', and talks about 'stakeholders' and 'empowerment'. In this environment, heritage is a key part of the information that we feel people ought to want to gain out of the wonders of information technology; the shared memories by which groups are supposed to define themselves and must therefore have access to; a rationale for the distribution of public funds to a vast range of projects (some of them traditional, many others innovatory); a way in which establishment bodies such as museums and libraries can include all those people who used never to feel drawn to their doors. …

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