Why Does the Past Matter? Emotional Attachments to the Historic Urban Environment

Lead Research Organisation: University of Glasgow
Department Name: School of Social & Political Sciences

Abstract

The role of heritage within public policies has recently been elevated within both national and international contexts. The Scottish Government's strategy Our Place in Time began a process of "mainstreaming the historic environment across national government policies" (2014:13) whereas UNESCO's Historic Urban Landscapes approach (2011) was designed to integrate "the goals of urban heritage conservation and those of social and economic development" (2014:5). The potential for heritage to contribute to a range of agendas is therefore well recognised within public policy. However, despite this rhetoric there is still an acknowledgment that the heritage sector has not fully evidenced the reasons why the past matters to a range of individuals. This is clearly demonstrated by the Scottish Government, who within the same Strategy document, stated their need to "improve our understanding of the role and impact the historic environment plays in all aspects of our lives - for example, its role in identity, well-being and sense of place" (2014:15). This project sits firmly within this context as its central aim is to examine the range of factors that contribute to the development of emotional attachments between people and the historic urban environment and the extent to which these factors are considered within the designation and management of heritage in the UK. Contained within this context are three central research questions:

RQ1: To what extent, and for what reasons, do changes to the urban environment expose emotional attachments between people and historic places?

RQ2: In what ways, and for what reasons, do individuals express their emotional attachments to the historic urban environment during times of urban change?

RQ3: To what extent, and how, are emotional attachments to place considered during the designation and management of historic urban assets?

The central core of the project engages with the emotional turn within heritage studies through conducting an analysis of the ways in which emotional attachments form between people and their historic urban environment. Previously described as the "elephant in the room of heritage and museum studies" (Smith and Campbell, 2016) emotion is increasingly becoming an influential theme within heritage studies. The project is premised on the belief that changes to urban environments can unlock previously latent emotional attachments to historic urban buildings. As such a number of urban case studies are examined through a combination of documents from privately held and rarely accessed archives, and newly-created data from place-based oral histories and focus groups. This existing and new data will then be subjected to analysis to try to examine the extent to which, and reasons why, the past matters to a range of individuals from heritage professionals to non-heritage professionals, defined as those people who are locally embedded within the historic urban environment, such as residents and activists.

Publications

10 25 50
 
Description The project is still in the data collection phase and so no tangible impact has yet been achieved, however, the pathways to impact are operational and to plan.
First Year Of Impact 2017
Sector Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections
 
Description AHRC Leadership Fellows Conference 
Organisation Arts & Humanities Research Council (AHRC)
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution Participated in the AHRC Leadership Fellows Conference at Brunel University in November 2017. Dr Madgin gave a short presentation to her research and participated in networking and learning events provided by the AHRC with other Leadership Fellows and AHRC staff members.
Collaborator Contribution The AHRC hosted the event.
Impact Shared knowledge between researchers; ongoing working relationships between Leadership Fellows; article in professional journal sourced by Dr Madgin in her role as Editorial Board member for one of the other Leadership Fellows met at the conference (due to be published in IHBC, 'Context' in May 2018).
Start Year 2017
 
Description AHRC Leadership Fellows Conference 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact Participated in the AHRC Leadership Fellows Conference at Brunel University in November 2017. Dr Madgin gave a short presentation to her research and participated in networking and learning events provided by the AHRC with other Leadership Fellows and AHRC staff members.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description AHRC/JPICH Workshop 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Dr Madgin was invited to speak to this workshop on the theme of Conservation and Planning. She spoke about key themes arising from the 'Why Does the Past Matter? Emotional Attachments to the Historic Urban Environment' research project.

The workshop provided the opportunity to showcase current research in the sub themes of Conservation and Planning, Diversity and Communities, Immersive,
multi-sensory engagement and virtual reality and Contested Heritage. The workshop was also designed to act as a platform to generate discussion and thoughts about the long-term strategy of the Joint Programming Initiative on Cultural Heritage- jpi-culturalheritage.eu.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description Conference Session 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact Dr Madgin organised with Dr James Lesh a session at the European Association of Urban History conference on the themes of the 'Why Does the Past Matter? Emotional Attachments to the Historic Urban Environment' project. The session was entitled: Urban Histories of Heritage: Emotion and Experience in Comparative and Transnational Perspective, 1750 -
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description Conference Session 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact Dr Madgin organised with Dr James Lesh a session at the Association for Critical Heritaeg Studies conference on the themes of the 'Why Does the Past Matter? Emotional Attachments to the Historic Urban Environment' project. The session was entitled: Histories of Urban Heritage: Emotional and Experiential Attachments across Time and Space

A follow-up publication is currently being prepared
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description Seminar Paper 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact Dr Madgin gave a seminar paper in the University of Edinburgh's Centre for Modern and Contemporary History seminar series entitled Why Does Heritage Matter? Valuing Glasgow's Historic Environment, 1945-2018.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description Seminar Paper 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact Dr Madgin gave a paper to DeMontfort University's History seminar series entitled: 'Why Do Sporting Places Matter?' This used case study examples from Glasgow and drew directly from research carried out for the 'Why Does the Past Matter? Emotional Attachments to the Historic Urban Environment' project.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019