Harvey, D.  (2001)  'Heritage Pasts and Heritage Presents: temporality, meaning and the scope of heritage studies', in International Journal of Heritage Studies, Vol 7, 4: 319 - 338.

Too much analysis of the heritage industry has focused on present day examples. Looking at earlier examples reveals processes at work of identity formation and embodied folk memory.

Heritage theorists have a problem in defining what they mean, and too many of them focus on contemporary examples, ignoring the historical dimension. Creating heritage is actually a long-standing process --'heritage has always been with us and has always been produced by people according to their contemporary concerns and experiences' (320). It is not just a movement that started in modern industrial society. For example, medieval European society was concerned with constructing a sense of heritage. More generally, social and political context and the impact of technology shape the construction. Connecting with these more general themes will avoid the endless proliferation of  'present-centred case-studies' (321).  [In my view, marxist theorists {try these}have already done this, of course. I have a general concern throughout with Harvey's dismissal or ignoring of marxist approaches. Harvey is well aware of these as his own famous earlier work shows -- maybe I have missed some decisive break?]

At the moment, Heritage Studies consists of these case studies, and has focused almost exclusively on the late 20th century [and many examples are given from the literature, eg page 322]. It is true that there has been a higher profile for heritage recently, and  'the increasing proliferation of heritage sites', taken as evidence by Hewison {one of the marxist writers}for the emergence of a heritage industry. The recent emergence of Heritage Studies also encourages an emphasis on the present, and it is common to announce the recent era as dating from various 19th Century Acts, the founding of the National Trust, or the activity of individuals such as William Morris. Theoretical frameworks to explain the rise of heritage have included postfordism and postmodernism.

But there are three problems with this sort of approach:  (a) it assumes that heritage has become completely commercialised and commodified;  (b) heritage is seen as merely another example of the more general leisure industry in postmodernism;  (c) as a result of these limits,  'conceptual closure' occurs (324) which misses other dimensions and long-term historical processes and origins. Part of the conceptual closure is to emphasise the value-loaded aspects of heritage in and for the present, and to make the present  'the only referent that matters' (324). Hence the common attack that heritage destroys a proper notion of history and an authentic version of the past.

However, this assumes that  'there is something called "correct" historical narrative that heritage is busily destroying... [and that]... all history, historical narrative and other relationships with the past were somehow more genuine and authentic than they have now become' (325). [Again, the marxist case is surely that important aspects of the past, especially class struggle, have been sidelined, although it is possible to suggest that this relies on a notion of proper marxist history. However, Harvey's own examples, summarised below, also depend on his own proper history, I assume?]. Modern history problematises its own interpretations and its claims to objectivity. Samuels has suggested that heritage theorists have reified [bourgeois?] history as an objective practice. Both 'history and heritage involve the subjective interpretation of selective material and issues' (327). Such selection has a long history.

[Again I want to insist that marxist argument has been sidelined here. It is true that people have always subjectively selected historical knowledge and reified it, and that this maybe culturally inevitable. However, the marxist case is that such reification now takes a specific form in capitalism in that history becomes commodified, which is not just the same as reification, but implies that history is being generated for economic or ideological reasons specifically, and that this process is part of a much broader one making critical recovery of history much more difficult than it was in the past. An allied criticism is directed against postmodernism's argument which rightly identifies the playfulness and populism of heritage, but fails to see it as connected into a whole economic system].

Out of this critique comes a notion of popular memory which has often been ignored in favour of  'elite, institutionalised memory preserved in the archives' (326). It could be argued that heritage actually transforms and preserves such popular memory, at least in some of its manifestations. [Again, it might have done so in the past -- but now?] This contexts heritage and understand it as a process, related both to human agency and cultural power. This leads to a definition of heritage as  '"a contemporary product shaped from history"' (citing Tunbridge and Ashworth, page 327).

Heritage was always connected to the idea of national identity, clearly seen during the First World War [and the Second, as in many propaganda films]. The example of Bonfire Night in England is another even earlier example, dating from the 17th century and promoted heavily 'as a device to support notions of communal solidarity, and to legitimise the Protestant state' (328). Bonfire Night also indicates that elements of popular memory and popular traditions were incorporated, such as  'the fire festival of Samain' traditionally held in November (328). These older elements were incorporated into the present of the 17th century, but preserved as much through 'oral custom and non-elite practice' (329). In another example, the figure of St George as English heritage has roots far deeper than current football supporting which has commodified it [little bloody flags of St George stuck on cars everywhere whenever England play in a tournament]. The cult of St George may date from the reign of Edward III, and represented  'a dialogue between elite traditions, oral heritage and popular memory... and the higher agenda of the Monarchy' (330).

In another example, Christianity was able to transform the city of Rome with all its historical associations, using 'pagan heritage... to enhance the authority of the Pope'  (331). [My former colleague -- Prof A Brent -- wrote an excellent mongraph on this practice, showing how Augustininan imperial symbolism attempted to marry Christian and pagan elements]. Medieval Rome was also well aware of the significance of ancient buildings and their use in the deliberate and conscious construction of the Christian story. There are also connections between intellectual and capital notions of heritage and inheritance. This process seems to have persisted over the centuries. The Church also used the stories of the Saints [hagiography]  in the same way. Modern notions of the connections between tourism and pilgrimage indicate more links -- medieval pilgrimages were also commercialised.  [My marxist objection arises again -- medieval commercialism is not the same as modern systematic commodification].

In these examples, elite practices actively energise popular memories even as they dominate and commercialise them. Harvey's own work on the saints of medieval Cornwall indicate a kind of heritage interpretation which involved local memory and local landscape, which was crucial in the notion of Cornish identity, by recounting the stories of the saints who are supposed to have founded local towns, for example. In this way,  'hagiographic accounts expressed the existence of a real popular heritage' (333). These examples show no evidence of a popular conscious awareness of heritage or an interest in preservation, but nor do they show that there was no concern for heritage until recently.

Examples of the struggles over current ancient monuments such as Stonehenge and their presentation and preservation seem to indicate that heritage is destroying history. However, such ancient sites have always been part of political agendas -- as in the work of Stukeley who first popularised the idea that the Druids were responsible for the Avebury monument, and in doing so denounced Popery as a recent pollution of true British religion. The ways in which ancient monuments have been redefined make the same point. Ancient buildings in Ireland were first seen as evidence of the barbarity of the Irish, then as evidence of some superior colonising civilisation, used to justify British colonialism, and finally as testament to early Gaelic civilisation. Each interpretation is equally political, and modern  'presentational packages... are not new' (335).  [You can probably guess what I'm going to say here -- modern presentation in the interests of commodification is new, and it is a grave ideological mistake to connect it like this to past practices in quite different societies. See the file on Marx on evolutionary historical accounts of capitalism criticising precisely this error].

So concepts of heritage have always developed and changed, and have done so as a result of several influences. Heritage Studies that over-emphasise the actual objects and relics can sometimes miss this historical dimension. Heritage has never been simply imposed by elites, but has been constructed through 'dialogue and resistance' (336) . It has always preserved notions of relevance for the politics of the present, including  'the ingrained ritual associated with practices of every day life' (336).

[Having said all this, Harvey now finally attempts to come to terms with what is modern!]. Modern heritage has become secularised and democratised, designed to appeal to a mass audience. Transformed technology might be responsible, helping us to develop 'a huge discovery of time' (337), through academic subjects such as geology, archaeology and history, and physics and astronomy. We are now much more capable of storing, interpreting and presenting notions of time and heritage. There has been no real change, but rather 'an increasing intensification, recycling, depth and scope of heritage activity' (337)  [But what drives all this technology and intensification?]. People have always expressed a nostalgia for the past and sought comfort in heritage. Heritage has always been taught, and we need to realise the historical dimensions. [But why was it so important for Thatcherism? And why does it take the form of a heritage industry?].

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