Work Package 6: Qualitative research in heritage sites

[Months: 10-34]

Lead: UKBA

Heritage sites (including museums, memorial complexes, historical sites and famous artistic venues) are important environments for young people to learn about national and local history, and for their socialisation into specific cultural identities. Visits to heritage sites can by organised formally (e.g. by their educational institutions) or informally (with their families and friends). WP6 is exploring heritage sites as spaces for cultural participation, and examining if and how they influence young people’s cultural literacy. Analysis will focus both on the perspective ‘from above’, as reflected in institutionalised national discourses (e.g. policy documents, national heritage literature, narratives of heritage practitioners), as well as on grass-root engagement with, and interpretations of, national heritage ‘offers’ by young people themselves. The first focus aims to identify versions of nation and culture (e.g. European-ness, or, in some national contexts, multiculturalism and immigration) that are officially recognised and put forward. This, will involve therefore, also require systematic attention to the cultural legacy and histories that are excluded from these constructions of (national) cultural heritage. It is not only the content of the heritage discourse but also its stylistic format that is significant. Recognition and formalisation of cultural forms and emplaced memories as cultural/historical heritage, incorporates Western ideas of modernity and enlightenment. For the project’s non-European case-studies (Turkey and India, and to some extent Georgia), the very presence of formalised heritage sites may be a way of internalising a particular vision of history and culture that is Western (if not Eurocentric) in its origin. This understanding informs our critical engagement with European cultural heritage since it implies a stagnant and homogenous perception of Europe, its culture and its history. Therefore, WP6 examines how heritage sites have been shaped in different European contexts (‘old Europe’, postsocialist countries, ‘Southern fringes’, etc.). Finally, the WP focuses on the modes of engagement with young people that are practised in mainstream heritage sites. These are significant because they may be instrumental in the degree to which institutions as environments succeed in cultural socialization and as facilitators of cultural literacy.