Monday, 7 October 2013

What is Heritage?

An example of living heritage: Late 13th Century France, a Monk tests the wine.

The Oxford English Dictionary defines Heritage as 'that which is inherited from the past', or specifically 'valued objects and qualities such as historic buildings and cultural traditions that have been passed down from previous generations'.  I believe the distinction between the 'historic buildings' and 'cultural traditions' is important.  Heritage is not only the past preserved in the form of castle, stately home or any other valued artifact that benefits the public interest but a living, breathing force within society.  Whether it be through language, music, food or even fashion, we are constantly reminded of our cultural identity and our links with society and the land upon which we live.   The British public seems to have an insatiable interest with the past, proved not only by the huge annual intake of such places as Warwick Castle but also an increased interest in genealogical research and  popular television series such as Downton Abbey.  
         It is not only our own Heritage we seem to relish either, the tourist industry is not just dependent on the holidaymakers desire for some sun and sea but also their eagerness to feel somewhat involved in a particular nations cultural heritage.  And aside from paying to see historical landmarks we've seen plastered on postcards (how often have you heard from a relative or friend recently returned from their travels; 'Oh, we avoided the tourist trail, we wanted to see the real <insert country here>'?) we learn titbits of language, shop as they do, eat as they do, drink as they do, etc.  When traveling, we engross ourselves in learning everything about a nation's identity that we can, much as we do when meeting a new friend or loved one.  
          In a society of social networking and ever advancing technological possibilities, heritage has never been more accessible.   There is something deeply satisfying in merging our gifts from the present with the gifts of the past.  As a Heritage Studies (Contemporary Practice) Masters student at Kingston University, I intend to utilise this privilege in the form of a Blog, which will hopefully assist me and others in learning more about the infinite definitions of heritage and it's practices in the modern world. 

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