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You’re my souvenir

Now, you all know I write about art and heritage right? Right. But this has got me thinking about some things. What about our own personal heritage? What is it that we carry around with us, that makes us feel connected to where we are, our past, our lives? I know, this is getting deep!

Since my previous post talked about connections, reflection and memories through the art of Goudie, I have been thinking about my own past and, in particular, the people in my life who have helped me to become the person I am today. I studied heritage at University, but it has always been ‘the whole picture,’ the ‘grand scale’ of world heritage, or national heritage. But what about our own heritage? And what exactly is heritage?!

The Ancient City of Sigiriya, Sri LankaThe Ancient City of Sigiriya, Sri Lanka, a World Heritage Site…do you feel connected?

The relationship between heritage and history has been subject to a lot of debate. There has been an influx in the number of heritage sites in the past twenty years (Williams and Shaw, 1988) but this has gone hand in hand with tourism. As tourism is “an ideological framing of history, nature and tradition…(it has) the power to reshape culture and nature to its own needs.” (McCannell 1992). Sounds a bit creepy to me.

We’ve all seen the World Heritage Sites, English Heritage, the National Trust, memorials and stately homes all full of ‘cultural riches’ and even ‘natural beauty’ but heritage is very complex.

Heritage can refer to tourist sites with an historical theme which may be preserved for the nation-state, but heritage can also refer to a suite of shared cultural values and memories, inherited over time and expressed through a variety of cultural performance (Peckham, 2003). History itself can be constructed and memories, recollections, they can all be contested.

English Heritage, Stokesay CastleEnglish Heritage or everyone’s heritage?

Heritage can also be very individual, with a notion of inheritance i.e. through legacies. I feel it is more than that. It is what you have amassed over time, your memories and re-collections, and it is these which ground you into a wider pattern of your own history.

There can be alternative endings for histories, and history can be interpreted in various ways (Johnson, 2005). Heritage, with its links to tourism, is often regarded as ‘inauthentic history.’ So, on a smaller scale, I feel personal heritage is a more authentic environment, which is not about nation-building or promotion. World and National Heritage is often conveyed through the museum environment and is there for ideological purposes and even the politicisation of culture (Lowenthal, 1996).

In my studies, there was always a focus on collective memory with heritage, which links us to a group of people, in a shared memory. I would say I have a collective set of memories which links me to my friends and family, and it is them that are my heritage. Heritage does not need to be centuries old, a cultural inheritance. Yes, I believe it can be built up over time, but it is something which is of value to you too and this can be just decades old.

I don’t believe my heritage necessarily lies behind the glass cabinets of a museum. I don’t believe it is grounded in ‘my own nation’ as we are all a part of one global heritage. I love museums, and I see them as ‘contact spaces’ to explore culture, to be inviting to all and to be limitless in their expression of history. But my heritage is ongoing, and my memories keep building…

So, this is my heritage…

First day of school

This is steph (on the left) and me (on the right) on our first day of school. But our friendship started a lot earlier than that. There is a story our parents have told us. When we were newborns my mum and Steph’s nan were out and about with us, and we started crying. They pushed the prams together side by side and we instantly stopped.

Me and Steph

Even when I went to University, our friendship continued- they say you meet your friends for life at Uni. I had already met mine.

So I dedicate this to those who are making my own history. Because you are my heritage, and you are the living souvenir that I’m going to carry with me. I didn’t buy you from a shop like a keyring replica from a museum, I didn’t find you on a beach like a fossil, and you certainly aren’t a postcard from a gallery stall. You were with me all the time, and you’re always going to be with me in the future. You are not a simulacrum, you are always the original and no copy can be made.

I think everyone should have a good look at their own personal heritage and see what they find. It’s not all about some dusty object hidden in an attic and long forgotten. Memories are already there and ready to be re-discovered, so take a peek…

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2 thoughts on “You’re my souvenir

  1. This is brilliant and very inspiring! (And lovely :))

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