Kubow et al. (2000, 139) identify four dimensions to citizenship educational policy: personal, social, spatial and temporal. They recognise that the personal and social dimensions of citizenship are largely historically conditioned and that heritage and tradition are influential in helping citizens understand what citizenship entails. They suggest that citizens need a rich knowledge of their own and the world's history to give them a sense of connection and belonging, as well as the depth of understanding, that are essential for citizenship. They identify the need for citizens also to remember that their actions will have an impact on the future. They suggest that citizenship education curriculum should have a broad a timeframe as possible, enhancing our knowledge and understanding of the present with that of the past and future. 'As citizens, we will be called upon to balance our readiness to explore and innovate with respect for the knowledge and values that constitute our heritage and with the realisation that we are also stewards for the future and past in relation to the contemporary issue being taught and discussed'. Traditionally, 'heritage' was defined largely as architecture or archaeology or moveable objects - 'tangible' heritage (Copeland forthcoming a), however, this seems now to be more often referred to as the 'historic environment'. Today, 'heritage' appears to encompass a much broader view of evidence from the past with the inclusion of activities, people and sites with no material remains but significant in literature, legend and myth (Ashworth and Howard 1999). This indicates the addition of more 'intangible' dimensions with an emphasis on intellectual assets.

There has been an on-going debate among heritage professionals in recent years in an attempt to find that balance between exploration, innovation and respect for heritage. Discussion documents such as Sustaining the Historic Environment: New Perspectives on the Future (English Heritage 1997) have sought to develop a more encompassing definition for heritage and a much broader role for it in society. The British government requested English Heritage to undertake a review of the historic environment in England through a broad cross-section of stakeholders meeting in five groups. The remit of one such group was 'Public Involvement and Access', and a review document, Power of Place: the Future of the Historic Environment was produced (English Heritage 2000a). The review was accompanied by a MORI survey which was commissioned to undertake research into people's views of the historic environment and to take particular note of the views of people belonging to minority ethnic communities. It revealed overwhelming support for the historic environment, though it also discovered that many people, especially those from minority ethnic communities, felt excluded from a full appreciation of the historic environment and thought that their heritage was ignored, and that their contributions and experiences were neglected (English Heritage 2000b). Power of Place received a response statement from the Department of Culture, Media and Sport in The Historic Environment: A Force for Our Future (DCMS 2001) which set out a number of actions to find new ways of reaching and empowering individuals and communities. Although 'citizenship' was not mentioned explicitly in any of these documents, it is clear that there were overlapping agendas between both citizenship and heritage.

"heritage ... has the potential to contribute to social cohesion, social inclusion and democratic citizenship"

The management of heritage has tended in the past to have been autocratic with decisions largely being taken by experts regulated by government legislation. Now, increasingly, decisions are seen as a matter of public concern (English Heritage 1997, 1; 2000a, 28). The role of professional expertise is changing from a 'top-down' positivistic approach to a more facilitating role, where interpretation is designed for audiences as they determine its form so that their needs can be met (Copeland forthcoming b). Interpretation is being devised so that it can empower an audience to make their own constructions from the evidence. While the audience experiences the site through engagement with it, it will be constructed in terms of what they see as significant in terms of relevance to their experience and the wider world. The site can have many meaning for them, and there is the possibility of numerous pasts being constructed (Copeland forthcoming c).

Heritage was usually valued because it was old, beautiful, or created by major artists, but recently new values that can be difficult or uncomfortable (discordant heritage) have arisen, increasingly reflecting cultural diversity (Clark 2000; Clark and Drury 2000). There is a move to encourage wider participation in the responsibilities for heritage, 'allowing people to feel a greater sense of ownership and engagement with the places in which they live' (DCMS 2001, 9). Increasingly, the importance of participation by individuals and communities in defining and managing their heritage is encouraged, 'the public's widening perceptions of what constitutes their heritage' (DCMS 2001, 25). The importance of heritage in defining a sense of identity, belonging to a community and a place is recognised (DCMS 2001, 7). Heritage is recognised as often being at the core of multiple identities and has the potential to contribute to social cohesion, social inclusion and democratic citizenship. This can only be effective if the past is seen as relevant to the present rather than primarily a concern of an exclusive social elite (Hayton Associates 2000).

The role of heritage has been expanding from a source of national unity arising from the recognition of the tangible aspects of heritage to a much wider ideal which contributes to political ideals, economic prosperity and social cohesion and cultural diversity (English Heritage 2000a, 4). So, heritage is becoming a forward-looking activity not a backward-looking view of an idealised, imagined, past set solid in time. It offers opportunities for change and renewal through new readings of the past, mediation between cultures through the understanding of how heritage is the result of common needs acting in specific localities.

Tangible heritage - monuments, buildings and objectsIntangible heritage - intellectual assets
Architecture and environmental beautySignificance in terms of the past and society
Nation-basedSocial, ethnic, community-based heritage
Automatic birthrightActively claimed
Rigid, intolerant
Source of renewal
Lever for change
Mediation between cultures
Table 2: The development of the concept of heritage


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Last updated: Wed Jul 10 2002