Thursday 5th October 2017 9.30am – 5pm
British Academy, London

‘Heritage Studies: Critical Approaches and New Directions’ is a one-day conference organised by the AHRC Heritage Priority Area team in association with the UK Chapter of the Association of Critical Heritage Studies,  which includes six sessions themed around Policy, Diversity, Brexit, Nature & Landscape, Public Engagement & Digital Opportunities, and Conflict. Chiara Bonacchi and Marta Krzyzanska from the Ancient Identities team will present two papers during the sessions on Brexit & Heritage and Digital Heritage & Museum/Visitor Experience:

Political Identities at the Time of Brexit: the roles of the past and post-expert practices –  Brexit & Heritage sesssion

How are people’s perceptions and experiences of the past contributing to shape the ways in which political identities are constructed and expressed? How are material and immaterial aspects of prehistoric and historical periods used to make sense of the contemporary world and of some of its challenges, such as mobility and border control? How are these ideas and views moulded and circulated, and what is the role played by heritage ‘expert’ practices in this context? Finally, how are Web platforms and ‘open’ philosophies impacting on the creation of different narratives? Our paper addresses these key questions, by examining the variable ways in which objects, places and practices from the Iron Age to the Early Medieval period are drawn upon today to discuss issues relating to Brexit and the US-Mexican border. We analyse how these ‘pasts’ are primarily invoked through crystallised and insistent dualities, in order to frame “(hoped for) political identities” (Marichal 2013). We will particularly underline how the barbarism-civilisation opposition and the concept of the Roman Empire and its symbols are leveraged by stakeholders in the pro-leave and proremain debate that preceded and followed the referendum held on 23 June 2016, in the UK.

Digital Heritage Research: designs, epistemologies and ethics in a world of big(?) data – Digital Heritage & Museum/Visitor Experience Session

Digital heritage is an emerging area of research that started to be scoped towards the end of the 1990s, but is now being substantially rethought of, to reflect critically on the impact of the changes that have been reshaping the media and communication landscape over the past two decades. These changes encompass the rise of a more dramatically interconnected Web and of ‘big’ data, characterised by sheer velocity, volume and variety, and by a flexible, fine-grained and relational nature (Kitchin 2014). The same infrastructures supporting digital cultural engagement and the management and workflows of heritage organisations can, to some extent, be used as Web archives to search, mine and analyse heritage data. Despite increasing interest in digital heritage, however, the number of studies that have engaged with big data to answer heritage related questions is still low. Our paper will draw on research on public interactions with the past through social media and crowdsourcing sites, to show the tensions between using these platforms as research spaces vs considering them contexts of heritage production in their own right. We will also discuss the utility of big data to undertake research in the cultural heritage (CH) domain, the methods and workflows that can be adopted, how they can be combined with smaller data analyses and the impact of these practices on CH in epistemological and ethical terms. What new questions can be asked and how can they be answered?