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Towards a Critical Heritage Approach to Heritage Interpretation and Public Benefit Comparative Case Studies of England and Germany

Deufel, N; (2016) Towards a Critical Heritage Approach to Heritage Interpretation and Public Benefit Comparative Case Studies of England and Germany. Doctoral thesis , UCL (University College London). Green open access

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Abstract

In this thesis I present a Post-Tilden approach to heritage interpretation that is informed by critical heritage studies. Using particularly Smith’s (2006) critique of the Authorized Heritage Discourse (AHD), I argue that current heritage interpretation discourse and practice is shaped by Freeman Tilden’s principles of Interpreting Our Heritage (1957), themselves rooted in the AHD. Subsequent interpretive textbooks have not challenged Tilden’s account, leading to an interpretation-specific AHD that does not respond to challenges posed by critical heritage studies, aspirations of decision makers, as expressed in legislation and policy, or to contemporary events. My research question is whether current interpretive practice delivers the public benefits of heritage, which it is attributed by legislation and policy. My methodology is a comparative study at two sites in England and Germany. I test the benefits that visitors associate with heritage and compare these to those asserted in legislation and policy. I examine the impact of current discourse and practice on visitors’ ability to realise these benefits. The study reveals gaps between official and visitor-reported benefits. In particular, benefits associated with place emerge more strongly in visitors’ estimation, while social benefits such as cohesion, asserted in legislation, are less prominent. The study suggests that current practices may in fact hinder rather than support visitors in realising some benefits. It also shows a discrepancy between visitors’ expectation of interpretation and current best practice. Based on these findings, I propose a critical heritage approach to heritage interpretation, taking note of concepts such as the intangible nature of heritage, connectivity ontologies, and heritage as assembling futures. I pose that as a representational practice, the key purpose of interpretation must be to make visible the layers of representation and meaning within heritage, establishing the key outcome of interpretation as enabling people’s continued heritage-making to assemble their own futures.

Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Title: Towards a Critical Heritage Approach to Heritage Interpretation and Public Benefit Comparative Case Studies of England and Germany
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Language: English
Keywords: critical heritage, heritage interpretation
UCL classification: UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of SandHS > Institute of Archaeology
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of SandHS > Institute of Archaeology > Institute of Archaeology Gordon Square
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/1482116
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