Heritage hospitality

For a little while now, I have been using the hashtag #heritagehospitality to capture instances of food, drink, hospitality locations and illustrations which have used or highlighted a historical context to provide a level of place authenticity, or quality (in all its construed forms). I have also occasionally flagged actual historical illustrations of food or hospitality.

Parks Canada have their own twist on heritage hospitality, with an entire webpage devoted to Heritage Chocolate, via a commercial sponsorship association with the Historic Division of Mars, which has created Heritage Chocolate for use at the organisation’s historic sites.

It is interesting to note that the Parks Canada ‘red chair’ features on the Mars website, as we are encouraged to support education by eating chocolate.

Branding the beauty – red chair moments from Parks Canada

In a nod to the shift from the experience to transformative economy in site management and interpretation, Parks Canada has been placing red chairs in scenic locations around its National Parks. These are designed to not only provide a passive viewpoint experience of natural heritage and landscape, but also generate a proactive sense of adventure in the visitor (the transformative bit) who is encouraged to seek out the locations where the benches have been placed.

The programme has been running for around three years, having started in Gros Morne National Park and has featured in social media and advertising across the country, with each Park taking its own approach to promotion.  The hashtags #ShareTheChair and #TimeToConnect hook in to the idea of shared outdoor experience and connecting with nature to bring about wider wellbeing.

The chairs themselves have heritage background, built in the Adirondack or Muskoka style, are bright red and carry the Parks Canada organisational logo.  The chairs can also be bought from the Parks Canada website (children and adult sizes available).

It is an interesting approach by the organisation, though has attracted some criticism – but as a site intervention of experiential design which incorporates a call to action, heritage, branding, visual stimulus, and landscape interpretation, it is effective.  I hope to capture my own red chair moments in the next month and will no doubt participate in #ShareTheChair as I encourage a couple of teenagers to disconnect from their phones for a moment.

In the UK, we have seen smaller scale equivalents at individual sites with National Trust branded deckchairs, and very subtly branded picnic benches at English Heritage sites.

Cosmopolitanism, self-identity, and a desire for social interaction in religious tourism – research paper

As part of a research team, I am a co-author on a paper in the Services Industry Journal which has recently looked at aspects of destination image and the behavioural intentions for visitors to religious sites. The case study focused on Iranian visitors to Mecca for Umrah.  An infographic has been produced which captures the key points in the paper. Given the growth in religious and spiritual tourism, including heritage trails, the paper includes advice for religious destination managers.

Abstract: This paper examines the links between cosmopolitanism, self-identity, and a desire for social interaction on perceived destination image and behavioural intentions. A model was tested using a sample of 538 Iranian visitors to Mecca for the purpose of Umrah. The result from the structural model suggests that destination attributes influence perceived destination image. Further, such tourists are likely to revisit or recommend Islamic destinations if their experience matches their perceived image of the destination. This implies that, while the religious characteristics of the destination remain important, destination managers cannot disregard the tangential, non-religious attributes of a destination which are crucial in order to satisfy more conventional tourist desires. As such, this study suggests that those managing religious travel destinations should endeavour to foster a welcoming image, where experience, interaction, and tolerance are at the forefront of the destination’s offering.

Link to the paper here: http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/02642069.2017.1333601

Dryburgh Abbey: the dorter


Dryburgh Abbey © David Gill


Dryburgh Abbey, Dorter © David Gill

The dorter (or dormitory) at Dryburgh Abbey is located on the first floor on the east side of the cloister. It lay above the chapter house and the warming house.

In the 16th century a residence was constructed in the space above the chapter house.

The Ministry signs use the term ‘dormitory’ rather than the Latin ‘dorter’.


Dryburgh Abbey, east side of the cloister © David Gill

Remains of one of the windows of the dorter can still be seen.


Dryburgh Abbey © David Gill


Dryburgh Abbey © David Gill

It was accessed via the night stairs that lead into the south transept of the church.


Dryburgh Abbey © David Gill


Dryburgh Abbey, night stairs © David Gill

The day stairs were located on the south side of the chapter house.


Dryburgh Abbey © David Gill


Dryburgh Abbey, Day Stair © David Gill

Management of heritage sites by the state – researching administrative histories in Scotland

Piecing together the administrative history of heritage properties in care (as an organisational function rather than as decisions relating to individual sites) inevitably requires documentary analysis from a number of sources. Investigating organisations in Scotland which oversaw the national historic sites portfolio, is complicated further by the relationship and stages of devolution of responsibilities between Ministries in London and the former Scottish Office (now Scottish Government). The National Records of Scotland provides a useful research guide for Scottish Government records in the period post-1707 (post Union).

Whilst many responsibilities were transferred to the Scottish Office in the post-War period, responsibility for the Historic Buildings Council for Scotland (which advised on conservation issues) was only transferred from the Ministry of Public Buildings and Works to the Scottish Secretary of State Edinburgh in 1966 (and put under the auspices of the Development Department) .  Formal responsibilities for ancient monuments, royal parks and palaces was not transferred to the Development Department until 1969.  Some aspects of Scottish heritage management are covered in research mentioned before as part of the Men from the Ministry project led by Simon Thurley at the then English Heritage, and records for the Ministry of Public Buildings and Works (and its successors – the Department of the Environment, and Property Services Agency) are held at the National Archives in Kew.

The Scottish-based records are catalogued as: Ministry of Works/Department of Environment/Property Services Agency (MW)
Ancient monuments, 1794-1975 (MW1); royal palaces, parks and gardens, 1816-1968 (MW2-3); public buildings, 1808-1979 (MW5).

As the Historic Buildings & Monuments section within the Scottish Development Department gradually coalesced under the Historic Scotland banner (prior to its formal creation as an Executive Agency), records are also held and catalogued as follows:

Historic Scotland – see Scottish Office Development Department
Ancient monuments case files, from 1859 (DD27) and historic buildings, from 1952 (DD32).

The Scottish Office Central Services (SOE) files have a catalogue relating to Manpower and Organization (SOE1) which contains information on the way in which the Development Department functions were organised, so these are a further line of enquiry for administrative histories of heritage.

There are also inter-relationships with other sites and functions of Government which now may be considered as part of the wider heritage or cultural landscape and therefore other organisations with heritage-related responsibilities (property and land management) are worth considering – this includes Railways and Canals (Ministry of Transport); Forestry (Forestry Commission); countryside recreation and nature protection (Countryside Commission); and Museums and Galleries (formally under the Scottish Office Education Department).

For detailed consideration of individual buildings / monuments, the research guides to Buildings, Canal Records, Lighthouses and Railway Records provide signposts. Additionally, Historic Scotland commissioned Morag Cross to produce a Bibliography of monuments in the care of the Secretary of State for Scotland in 1994, produced as an Occasional Paper by the University of Glasgow’s Archaeology Department, which is a key source of information, as (of course) are organisational records currently held within Historic Scotland (now Historic Environment Scotland) rather than those ‘archived’.

From experience to transformation – enterprising heritage sites

The business of running a heritage site has got ever more complex as new ideas, drivers from the wider tourism industry, changing visitor expectations, and commercial pressures on conservation organisations have increased. The range of ‘touchpoints’ between visitors and heritage sites often combine aspects of intellectual, commercial or experiential interaction, and have the potential to move the site from having a passive to an active relationship between the managing organisation for the site and its users.  This is particularly useful for heritage organisations which want to develop customers into stakeholders and supporters of a conservation cause.

The growth in the range of income streams for an individual site lead to complexity for leadership of both the site and wider organisation, which means a site needs to be considered as a particular form of enterprise.  A recent publication by Bruce Dearstyne, Leading the Historical Enterprise (Altamira 2014) considers usefully considers this.

The different contexts and relationships are neatly illustrated at Anglesey Abbey, near Cambridge, run by the National Trust. Illustrated is one of a number of similar information boards at various key visitor gathering points around the site. The information frame is headed by a strapline variant of ‘One Time..’ which is used across the site to bring together the interpretative theme based around Lord Fairhaven’s creation of the estate and landscape gardens. An explanation is provided of the new live interpretation which is being deployed at the site by costumed volunteers (called ‘engagers’), designed to provide an ‘immersive experience’, as if the house owners were still in residence. Further notices suggest that the visitor could ‘Start a fresh story here’, by visiting the second-hand book shop, purchase tickets for the Winter Lights evening opening, or purchase a raffle ticket which will support the restoration of the Rose Garden.  Visitors are also encouraged to ask questions about the plants in the garden by taking a card from a small wooden box and writing their queries on them for passing to garden staff, who will then feed back information.

The various notices therefore bring together aspects of brand creation; diversity in income streams; innovation in interpretation through immersive experience of the site; after-hours special events which stretch the hours of site utilisation and which have developed a level of exclusivity given popularity (tickets being sold in July for November, almost 6 months in advance); knowledge development through being able to quiz the gardeners about plants; and sating of competitive tendencies via a raffle with prizes with the added bonus of doing something good for the site.  In a single location we can therefore see a sophisticated range of visitor engagement, and consider this against the context of Pine and Gilmore’s ideas on the Experience Economy and developed notions of the Transformative Economy, whereby a heritage visit can now affect a person visiting in a number of ways.

Dryburgh Abbey: book cupboard


Dryburgh Abbey © David Gill

A book cupboard is located on the east side of the cloister at Dryburgh Abbey. It is adjacent into the main east processional doorway into the church, and on the other side the library and vestry.

J.S. Richardson (in the ‘Blue Guide’) noted: ‘Near the processional doorway is a wall-press or aumbry, once fitted with doors and shelves to contain the books used in the cloister’.


Dryburgh Abbey © David Gill


Dryburgh Abbey © David Gill