Tag Archives: Heritage

Using Film to Examine Heritage, Identity and Global Citizenship: A Care for the Future follow-on project

Paul Cooke (University of Leeds) describes his film-education project ‘Using Film to Examine Heritage, Identity and Global Citizenship’: supporting the work of the Bautzen Memorial to Engage New Audiences’

Bautzen Project Trailer from Paul Cooke on Vimeo.

The project worked with the Bautzen Memorial in Germany – formerly the main prison of the East German Secret Police – and the community filmmaking group ‘Landesverband Kinder- und Jugendfilm Berlin’, in collaboration with the British Film Institute film academy, to co-produce a series of films that are to become part of the permanent exhibition at Bautzen and will also be submitted to young people’s film festivals across Europe. Working with a group of young people from the UK and both the former East and West German states, the films drew on the findings of our Care for the Future exploratory award Screening European Heritage. This project explored, amongst many case studies, the ways in which popular culture reflects the changing legacy of the GDR in contemporary Germany. The project team took these finding to the memorial, discussing them with our student participants, the memorial team and Manfred Mattias, a civil rights activist and former inmate in the prison during the 1970s. The students involved were then given training to make short films that allowed them to reflect creatively upon the lessons to be learnt from the GDR dictatorship for contemporary understandings of democracy, global citizenship and the competing ways that notions of ‘heritage’ relate to our sense of identity.

The project has produced a whole range of short films. The project trailer gives an overview of the work we undertook during our time in the prison. Other films will be appearing gradually on line. The first of these, which explores the relevance of GDR history to the present-day refugee crisis has been awarded a prize in the German national broadcaster Pro 7’s youth film festival SchoolsOn

Our main partner was the Bautzen Memorial. It is the aim of the Memorial to keep alive the memory of the crimes of the East German regime as a historical warning for contemporary society. Central to its strategy is to support the political education of young people, both across the former East and West German states and also within a European context. The Memorial is currently focussed on expanding its visitor demographic, which is predominantly East German. It was the aim of this project to support the Memorial in this endeavour, bringing together as participants East and West Germans. Moreover, through the inclusion of UK participants it was also envisaged that the project would help the Memorial to develop internationally-focussed, English language pedagogical material in order to enhance its offering for international visitors.

The project team and Bautzen Memorial also work with Landesverband Kinder- und Jugendfilm Berlin (kijufi), an educational filmmaking charity that aims to turn young people from passive consumers of audio-visual media into active and critical practitioners. The charity offers young people a professional introduction to basic filmmaking techniques and supports them in developing and realising their own projects in small groups. One of kijufi’s strategic aims is to prompt young people to ask questions about society and history by means of their audio-visual practice. The charity has a strong interest in creating such an engagement with the GDR past, a period of history which young people did not witness but which is crucial to understanding contemporary Germany and its role in Europe. Normally working within Berlin and its surrounding areas, the kijufi will benefit greatly from being able to extend its reach through cooperation with the Bautzen Memorial. Finally, the project worked with alumni from the British Film Institute Film Academy, in partnership with the media consultancy REEL Solutions, to provide international filmmaking experiences for young UK filmmakers.

Report on AHRC/LABEX Franco-British Research Workshop 1

Northcott 1Fondation Royaumont, Val d’Oise, France 16-17 January 2015

By Michael Northcott, m.northcott@ed.ac.uk

A Franco-British Research Workshop of grant holders from the AHRC’s Care for the Future grant call and LABEX’s (Laboratory of Excellence) grant call ‘Les passes dans le present: histoire, patrimoine, memoire’ was held at the former Cistercian Abbey of Royaumont 20 miles north of Paris in January 2015. The Abbey was built in the thirteenth century and patronised by Louis XIV. It is situated in a large walled enclosure of gardens, water features and stone buildings. Over the centuries the monks instituted some remarkable hydrological features. The abbey is situated between two lakes on raised ground Northcott labex 2and water from one lake flows through the Abbey grounds and buildings and out to the other lake, Along the way it was stone and sand filtered for drinking water, its flow was used for a mill, while separate channels combined with settlement pools and small weirs were used to separate and cleanse waste water. The resultant water use and supply was very advanced for its era while at the same time the channelling of water around the site considerably enhances the beauty of the buildings and grounds. I was reminded of the similar use of water in the Alhambra at Grenada and indeed the Abbey is an interesting example of Islamic influence on French ecclesiastical aesthetics. This influence is acknowledged in the commentaries provided by the Royaumont Foundation – who are the present owners of the Abbey – on the gardens in which it is pointed out that until 1100 monastic gardens were working gardens providing foodstuffs, herbal medicines and beverage related plants to the monasteries. Northcott labex 3But under Islamic influence the uses of gardens as places of contemplation, and for aesthetic appreciation, became more prominent and vestiges of this turn can be seen income of the restored gardens at Royaumont. The Abbey also had managed woodlands for fuel which can still be seen to the North of the present site.

The title of the workshop was ‘Delving back into the past to look into the present and future’ and the main aim was to explore interconnections between the AHRC Care for the Future and LABEX Pasts in the Present research calls. Both grant themes sponsor modes of representation of the past from interdisciplinary perspectives. A number of the presentations raised issues relevant to the AHRC Environment and Sustainability theme, and I will just highlight these. A fuller Northcott labex 4discussion of presentations is available in the blog by Lucy Veale athttp://careforthefuture.exeter.ac.uk/blog Sophie Richter-Devro, from the University of Exeter, in her presentation on her research into the oral history of Bedouin women in Palestine highlighted the difficulties of writing or documenting flexible, ever changing oral traditions, and the dangers of ‘freezing’ narratives and communities. Paulo Jedlowski, from the University of Calabria, in a philosophical presentation on ‘Memories of the Future’ drew on the work of Koselleck in examining portrayals of ‘future presents’ and ‘present futures’, for example in science fiction novels and films, and discussed how such past imagined futures might underwrite intergenerational connections. Intergenerational connections were also addressed by Richard Haynes, from the University of Stirling, whose presentation on sports heritage in Glasgow demonstrated the use of archival research, geo-referencing and mapping activities with school children to engage with communities across generations. The presentation of Carry van Lieshout from the University of Nottingham on the ‘The Power and the Water’ project linked historical with contemporary research around water management, access and the environment, and revealed conflicts and solutions of the past that may be useful today. Lucy Veale of the University of Nottingham gave a presentation on the Extreme weather project in which she highlighted the importance of archive, datasets, memory and narrative in framing present-day responses to extreme weather. Northcott labex 5Religious understandings of temporality, and specifically deep time, was tackled by Michael Northcott, of the University of Edinburgh, who described the way geological time – as invented by James Hutton and Charles Lyell -displaced human intergenerational history from earth or natural history, a displacement that the new geological epoch of the Anthropocene reverses in ways that are generative of cultural imaginaries of climate change and species extinction. A presentation by Carlos Lopez Galviz, School of Advanced Study, University of London, compared the nineteenth century development of the urbanscapes of London and Paris, and the role of futuristic imaginaries in their respective shaping. In a helpful summative comment Andrew Thompson observed the importance of recognising the multiplicity of imagined todays, tomorrows and yesterdays in our respective projects.

Northcott labex 6The joint workshop was an excellent example of Franco-British cooperation and a new initiative for AHRC and LABEX. Andrew Thompson and director of the LABEX theme, Marie-Claire Lavabre, in their concluding remarks also indicated their clear and joint intention to launch a joint funding call between AHRC and LABEX for research projects involving collaboration between researchers from the Care for the Future theme and the LABEX ‘Les Passes dans le present’ theme.


Collaboration with Cluster of Excellence (labex) Pasts in the Present programme

AHRC Care for the Future: Thinking Forward through the Past and Labex Pasts in the Present: History, Heritage, Memory are holding a series of three joint workshops in 2015. The workshops seek to bring together researchers, ECRs and practitioners/professionals from project teams across the two programmes for two days of ideas exchange and discussion on shared themes.

The first workshop took place at the Royaumont Foundation near Paris on 16th and 17th January 2015. Please see the programme here.

AHRC logo                     labex-passes-present-logo

Between cultural and natural heritage

marianna-dudleyby Dr Marianna Dudley, University of Bristol. Cross-posted from The Power and the Water: Connecting Pasts with Futures blog

Between cultural and natural heritage

Dudley 1 chateau

“Fairytale castle”, chateau Chenonceau. Photo: Marianna Dudley.

Chenonceau is a chateau worthy of a fairytale princess. It has turrets and gardens and galleries – and a river running through it. Built between 1514 and 1522 on the site of an old mill, it became the home of Diane de Poitiers, mistress of King Henry II. Diane loved the chateau, and built the bridge over the river. On Henry’s death in 1559, his widow Catherine de Medici demanded that Diane exchange Chenonceau for her chateau Charmont. Catherine built the galleries upon Diane’s bridge, and ruled France as regent from the building. Renaissance intrigues, not fairytales, brought this building to life.

Foundation Royaumont, a former abbey. Photo: Marianna Dudley.

Foundation Royaumont, a former abbey. Photo: Marianna Dudley.

I was in France following an AHRC-Labex Franco-British workshop, where Care for the Future project members were brought together with French Labex counterparts, to discover each other’s research and discuss possibilities for future collaboration. The 2-day workshop was held in a former abbey transformed into a cultural centre – the Royaumont Foundation – to the north of Paris, a stunning setting for the ‘Delving Back into the Past to Look into the Present’ workshop.

The workshop was the result of an initiative by Andrew Thompson, director of the Care for the Future programme for the AHRC in Britain, and Ghislaine Glasson Deschaumes, director of Les Passés dans le présent (the Laboratoire d’excellence based at the Université Paris Ouest Nanterre la Defense, France). The two funding schemes had such close themes – Care for the Future: Thinking Forward through the Past, and The Past in the Present: History, Patrimony, Memory – as well as an emphasis on working with external heritage partners, and supporting early career researchers, that Andrew and Ghislaine have taken the opportunity to forge collaborative links between the two. Future funding will allow members of the two schemes to connect and apply for funding for joint research projects.

Carry van Lieshout and I were there to represent ‘The Power and the Water’, describe our research and be alert for potential links with French researchers present. My paper, ‘Between natural and cultural heritage, and human and natural archive’, discussed the importance of placing environments and natures at the heart of our understandings of heritage – as they have been historically, for example in the conservation movement in the UK and the global national park movement. It suggested that the language of heritage acquires new meaning when situated in a public sphere with many and multiple ties to place and nature – heritage breeds, heirloom vegetables, and keystone species are just some of the vocabulary used to add value to things by invoking heritage both cultural and natural. I suggested that, as historians and heritage professionals, we should be alert to the natural archive as a source and site for history, in addition to the cultural archive, and continue to place importance on landscapes, animals, ecosystems, natural cycles – and the histories and cultures they inform – in our discussions of heritage. In her paper ‘River or Ruin? Connecting Histories with Publics’, Carry explored how different valuations and understandings of an intermittent river and its heritage are playing out in the Peak district, and suggested that to widen our understanding (and expectations) of heritage-in-place to accommodate both natural and human interventions might allow contestations between past, present and future use to move forward.

Splendour of the interior of interior of Chateau Chenonceau. Photo: Marianna Dudley.

Splendour of the interior of interior of Chateau Chenonceau. Photo: Marianna Dudley.

After an intense two days of workshopping, I took some time to see more of French heritage in situ. Thus, I ended up at Chateau Chenonceau on a bitterly cold January morning, fully absorbed in the Renaissance splendor of the house, from the kitchens down below to the roaring fires that brought life (and much-needed warmth) to bed chambers and sitting rooms. This was cultural heritage at its best.

But then, in the gallery exhibition, a quote from Marguerite Yourcenar stopped me in my tracks, and brought the natural heritage of the chateau, somewhat hidden beneath the weight of tapestries and brocades and copper pans, back to the fore:

Let’s look at it from a new perspective, leaving aside these very well-known figures, these silhouettes on the magic lantern of French history… let’s think about the countless generation of birds that have flocked around these walls, the skillful architecture of their nests, the royal genealogies of animals in the forests and their dens or their unadorned shelters, their hidden life, their almost always-tragic death, so often at the hands of man.

Take another step along the paths: let’s dream about the great race of trees, with different species taking over in succession, compared to whose age four or five hundred years means nothing.

Another step further on, far from any human concerns, here is the water in the river, water that is both older and newer than any other form, and which has for centuries washed the cast offs of history. Visiting old residences can lead us to see things in a rather unexpected way. (Sous bénéfice d’inventaire (1962)

Yourcenar, the French writer and first woman to be inducted into the Académie Française (in 1981), looked beyond the materiality of the chateau to connect its history with that of the surrounding lands and waters that supported it, and suffered for it.[1] Her words spoke to me as an encouragement for environmental historians to raise the profile of the natural archive, and as a reminder that we are far from the only ones to seek and value natural heritage alongside other manifestations of history. I look forward to the opportunities that the initiative between AHRC and Labex presents for us to connect with French scholars with similar convictions and research interests. Sincere thanks to Andrew, Ghislaine, and the AHRC/Labex staff for bringing us all together, and starting conversations that are sure to develop.

[1] ‘Becoming the Emperor: How Marguerite Yourcenar reinvented the past’, The New Yorker (February 14, 2005)

Researching Community Heritage – A Connected Communities project

Researching Community HeritageThe University of Sheffield’s Researching Community Heritage project was funded by the AHRC Connected Communities programme to support community groups and organisations to develop research projects exploring their local heritage. Academics were matched with community researchers and encouraged to work together to develop co-produced projects. Groups applied to the Heritage Lottery Fund for financial support to develop the project, meaning that they retained autonomy and ownership of the projects and were not reliant on the university for funding. Projects included: working with a homeless charity for young people to research the history of the hostel they are based in; exploring links between the Peak District, India and Hindu culture through research into the cotton trade with Sheffield Hindu Samaj; and a project with Rotherham Youth Service working with Primary School children to find out more about the history of their area through creative approaches to history and archaeology.

The project with Rotherham Youth Service was designed by Professor Kate Pahl from the School of Education and Sheffield-based artist, Steve Pool. Together with researchers from the School of English at Sheffield and postgraduate students from the Department of Archaeology, they designed a series of activities which aimed to engage children with the history of coal mining in their area – as well as Rotherham’s Roman and Anglo-Saxon past. Children were encouraged to step through a ‘portal into the past’ and select a period from history to research. The children wrote, filmed and edited short films based on their research as Professor Pahl describes:

“Portals to the Past involved a group of Year 6 children from St Joseph’s School in Rawmarsh, Rotherham, re-imagining their pasts and their futures in very different ways. The children learnt research methods that allowed them to explore documents, photographs and objects from the past. They then took creative and transformative journeys by travelling through magical portals into the past. They produced stories about historical Rawmarsh based on their journeys through the portal.

The children heard about the miner Arthur Eaglestone and his book ‘From a Pitman’s Notebook’, written in Rawmarsh in the 1920s. They wrote mining poems and sang a Portal Song with Ray Hearne, song writer and poet. They also did an archaeological dig with postgraduates from the Department of Archaeology and visited Rotherham Archives for expert information on Rawmarsh. They became Vikings with Marcus Hurcombe, youth worker, and imagined Anglo Saxon worlds through runes and maps with researchers from the School of English and worked with artist Steve Pool to create films of better imagined pasts through the portal.”

Other researchers have described their contribution to the project and its value for their own research:

I used my field skills to show year sixes how to excavate test pits and shared my knowledge on material culture. I felt I helped the children engage with the artefacts they were finding, and allowed them to see history from a different perspective. I gained experience myself in making archaeology interesting and accessible. Sara Farey, Archaeology Undergraduate

I am researching the work of Arthur Eaglestone, a local author from Rawmarsh in Rotherham. Using these texts with young people in Rotherham schools allows us to discuss the importance of local history and language to their lives. On occasions like this I have appreciated having my notions of knowledge and expertise challenged and found of great benefit discussing what is of relevance or can empower young people who are, and have been historically, put in a socio-economic and culturally deficit position. It is always a challenge working with community partners because of the need to consolidate the aims of the University with community partners in a way that is relevant and useful to both parties. This challenge is for me the most enjoyable part of working on research projects such as Portals to the Past. Hugh Escott, English Language PhD Researcher

The successes of small-scale projects, like these, have led to further collaborations with community groups and subsequent research projects. You can find more details on the project website: http://communityheritage.group.shef.ac.uk/projects/

Follow on Twitter: @rch_Sheffield

History and Heritage: A Troubled Rapport

Prof Andrew Thompson, Leadership Fellow of AHRC Care for the Future: Thinking Forward through the Past. andrewthompson_pageCross-Posted from the Imperial & Global Forum

In 1913, government passed a long forgotten piece of legislation – the Ancient Monuments Consolidation and Amendment Act. The title of the act may have been commonplace but the results were certainly not, for it paved the way for the creation of the historic environment we know and enjoy today. 

Fast forward a century. In 2013, government is poised to take less, not more responsibility for preserving our historic monuments and buildings. The answer to this retreat is widely felt to lie in the built heritage sector redefining its relationship with the public. But what would that entail?

Ancient Monuments Act 1913 plaqueImagine a Britain without Stonehenge or Hadrian’s Wall. Imagine our historic landscape no longer embellished by great castles, cathedrals or country houses. This imagined present could easily have been a reality had it not been for the 1913 Ancient Monuments Consolidation and Amendment Act.

This landmark piece of legislation paved the way for the creation of the historic environment that we know and enjoy today. Its premise was that there were monuments and buildings which belonged to our nation’s history – and that government had a duty to ensure their survival.

For the last century Britain has led the world in caring for its heritage. Yet with cuts in public spending and pressures to relax restrictions on development the future of our historic environment is looking ever more uncertain and insecure. The existing system of designation – by which buildings are listed, monuments scheduled and parks and gardens registered – is already under a lot of strain. There are many fewer local authority conservation officers today than there were a decade ago, to say nothing of the conflict of interest facing local authorities as they seek to reconcile their roles as protectors of heritage and cash-starved property developers.

In 2013, government seems poised to take less, not more responsibility for preserving our historic environment. The answer to this retreat is widely felt to lie in the built heritage sector redefining its relationship with the public.

But what would that entail?

The recession hasn’t (yet) damaged heritage sites as visitor attractions. Since 2010 numbers have actually grown. Yet the view of the past presented by many of these sites better reflects the society we were in 1913 than the one we’ve become a century later. Can history ride to heritage’s rescue?

Heritage is always playing catch up with history. It wasn’t until the 1930s that a campaign to recognise Georgian buildings swung into action. It took another twenty years for Victorian architecture to get much of a look in. And only with the upheaval in historical understanding of the 1960s – the rise of people’s, economic and social history – was the notion of heritage expanded to embrace industrial and military sites, and the heritage of the everyday as well as the exceptional.

Those who lobbied for the 1913 Act saw the country’s ancient monuments and historic buildings as encapsulating the big themes of British history. Their expectation was that by visiting these places people would be better educated about their past and better connected to their national story. This begged two questions however. What was that story? And who was qualified to tell it?

A top-down view of history, in which knowledge of the past is imparted rather than shared, seems at odds with a modern, democratic society.

Take the growth of interest in local, family and military history, or the popularity of archaeology, to say nothing of battlefield re-enactments or the more recent craze for urban exploration. If these things have anything to teach us about historical research today it is that people don’t see themselves as bystanders but as active participants. Citizen History is no less striking a phenomenon than Citizen Science.history-heritage

For the built heritage sector to redefine its relationship, it must first redefine its relationship to history. Heritage is easily caricatured as ‘elite’ or ‘establishment’ history — such was the fashion on the Left in the 1980s and it lingers on today. But there is no denying that the sector has been slow – too slow – to absorb periods of major historical reassessment into its thinking about what pieces of the past we want to carry forward into the future.

This is perhaps especially true of the history of empire. For almost half a century after the Second World War, empire was effectively written out of the national narrative. The process of coming to terms with the loss of empire, and the world that was replacing it, saw the British distancing and disconnecting themselves from their empire, and, in the process, diminishing or even denying its importance. Just as the acquisition of their colonies had supposedly been little more than a matter of national pride, so too their loss would only be temporarily disconcerting.

This so-called ‘Little Englander’ view of British history proved remarkably persistent. Most general histories of Britain written in the post-war period treated the empire as if it was something that had happened overseas and was therefore external to Britain. As Salman Rushdie once remarked, ‘the problem for the English was that their history had essentially taken place overseas and so they could not understand its importance.’

All this began to change in the 1980s, a decade when empire suddenly and strikingly resurfaced in British public life. The Falklands War of 1982, as well as a spate of films and television productions which glamorized empire, while ignoring the uncomfortable realities of colonial power, helped to pave the way for a so-called ‘new’ imperial history — a wide-ranging reappraisal of the part played by empire in Britain’s past.

Yet the heritage sector has still to absorb the implications of this very different view of Britain’s history – a view in which the empire is repositioned at the heart of the national narrative.

The-Empire-Windrush-in-19-001, photo hulton GettyThe biggest single change to Britain over the last half century is the transformation of the ethnic complexion of its population. The racial and religious diversity which has been brought about by immigration from our colonies and former colonies has led to major differences in how we live. It isn’t at all clear that our national heritage collection has fully registered this change.

The critical success of the film “12 Years a Slave” has reminded us of the importance of slavery to the prosperity of Britain’s nineteenth century elite, and prompted a re-examination of its legacy. Such a re-examination should include its legacy for our built environment. Many of the country houses considered prize pieces in the national heritage collection are expressions of the wealth and power accumulated from West Indian slave plantations. Yet you wouldn’t always know about this more sinister aspect of their past by walking around them.

The centenary of the First World War should also give us cause to pause and reflect. Just over a decade ago the first ever monument was erected to the sacrifices of the millions of still largely forgotten Indian, African and Caribbean soldiers who fought alongside Britain in the two world wars. It stands on Constitution Hill near Hyde Park Corner. Unlike the Queen Victoria Gates on the Mall, the Commonwealth Memorial Gates are not yet protected. Under current rules for listing they won’t be eligible for another twenty years. English Heritage’s criteria for protecting post-1945 structures are ‘exceptional importance’ and ‘historic interest’. Surely adequate grounds for an exception to be made.commonwealth memorial gates

So what should be done now?

The kind of heritage protection we might collectively envisage for the future is inseparable from the question of what kinds of heritage we wish to protect. And for the public to buy into that heritage, the gap between history and heritage has to be bridged. The time is ripe for a new debate about the relationship between the two.

But this debate needs to reach out beyond the organisations that have over the last century protected Britain’s most treasured monuments and buildings to engage a much wider audience. It should address head-on the question of whose histories remain unacknowledged or under-represented in our national heritage collection.