Sector knowledge: Space & Culture – International Journal of Social Spaces (SAC)

Journal Summary: Space and Culture brings together dynamic, critical interdisciplinary theory and research on social spaces and spatializations, eveyday rhythms and cultural topologies at the interface of urban geography, sociology, cultural studies, studies of time-space, architectural theory, ethnography, media and urban studies, environmental studies. Space and Culture’s unique focus is on social spaces, such as retail, laboratory, leisure spaces, suburbia, virtual spaces, diasporic spaces or migrancy, or the home and everyday life. In every issue, Space and Culture explores and critiques everyday life in contemporary cities, environment, and new media.

Publisher: Sage

Website: https://journals.sagepub.com/home/sac

Access: Subscription; some open access

Journal Type: Academic peer reviewed

Sector knowledge: Progress in Human Geography

Journal Summary: Progress in Human Geography is for those wanting to know about the state of the art in all areas of human geography research – philosophical, theoretical, thematic, methodological or empirical. Concerned primarily with critical reviews of current research, PiHG enables a space for debate about questions, concepts and findings of formative influence in human geography. Four major strands – Perspectives, Reviews, Biographies and Key Publications – shape the agenda setting content of the journal. They enable it to offer critically informed and diverse accounts of the intellectual traditions and contemporary developments that shape and direct human geographical research and teaching.

Publisher: Sage

Website: https://journals.sagepub.com/home/phg

Access: Subscription; some open access

Journal Type: Academic peer reviewed

Place-making or place-keeping ?

MP4 project placekeepingIn tackling my backlog of grey literature reading, a report re-emerged in my files on an EU-funded project which ran as part of the 2007-2013 North Sea Region Programme.  The project, entitled “Making Places Profitable – Public and Private Open Spaces”, shortened to MP4 focused on exploration of approaches for planning and designing, maintaining and using public places in the long-term. It set out to demonstrate how open space improvements offer positive socio-economic benefits, and how the benefits offered to key communities can be maintained in the long run.  It also illustrated support for greater interaction between all those involved in the open space management process.  The original project website is no longer active (and I’d advise anyone not to click the link in the project report as the project domain has been re-used for something else entirely!) – but it can be found archived here.  Broader research and case studies were also published in an academic text. (I also hadn’t realised that a Heriot-Watt colleague was involved in the study, and I will now track him down for a conversation!).

The key phrase used within the project which has stuck in my mind over the past few days, is ‘place-keeping’, mainly because I haven’t consciously heard it being used in the historic environment milieu which I am embedded in (rather than the open space management context where it originated).  That we haven’t picked up on the term ‘place-keeping’ surprises me therefore – as the ethos of balancing preservation and managing change which is at the heart of heritage management seems to be neatly captured in it,  particularly where community and stakeholder engagement is at the fore, and especially where it is trying to encourage greater sense of ‘ownership’.  Place-keeping, however perhaps better captures aspects of our discussions in heritage management which which have co-opted ‘place-making’ as a term to use somewhat uncomfortably at times, where heritage has been hard-wired to regeneration and as an instrumental tool for development.  Place-keeping also has an implicit sense of history within the term, whilst place-making just doesn’t – to me it suggests a constant act of development.    Perhaps I have missed it entirely, but I think I shall now be slipping place-keeping into meetings and discussions and see where it finds new traction – or gets challenged forcing me to consider this all a little more.

Academic journals: International Journal of Heritage Studies

Journal Summary: The International Journal of Heritage Studies (IJHS) is the interdisciplinary academic, refereed journal for scholars and practitioners with a common interest in heritage. The Journal encourages debate over the nature and meaning of heritage as well as its links to memory, identities and place. Articles may include issues emerging from Heritage Studies, Museum Studies, History, Tourism Studies, Sociology, Anthropology, Memory Studies, Cultural Geography, Law, Cultural Studies, and Interpretation and Design.

Publisher: Routledge

Website: https://www.tandfonline.com/toc/rjhs20/current

Access: Subscription; some open access

Journal type: Academic peer-reviewed

Reflecting on the RSA’s #HeritageIndex

RSA heritage index 2015 coverThe RSA has recently launched the first iteration of the Heritage Index in association with the Heritage Lottery Fund.  For the first time it has brought together a disparate range of data outputs which can be categorised according to whether they are heritage assets or heritage activities.  Correlations are then made between them, with factoring for density of activity / asset, population, and weighting according to the perceived importance of the the category type.  The methodology is explored within a short film, accompanying technical report, and data which can be explored through manipulation of the summary dataset in an excel file, or via the web-based visualisations which make good use of spatial data presentation techniques.

This forms part of a larger project which the RSA is working on, looking at the opportunities and challenges for ‘place development’ – of importance in a political and public services landscape of regionalisation and localism and expectation of ever greater value for money for public investment.  The historic environment (to give heritage it’s policy-world moniker) is under pressure, and is regularly flagged as being under-resourced and at risk, so the Heritage Index data is a useful tool in terms of reanalysing and reconceptualising the role of heritage assets within our living environment.  The work has thrown up some interesting initial findings – which at first may seem counter-intuitive, but perhaps when reflected upon, were staring us in the face.  Areas with high levels of heritage assets don’t always have high levels of engagement with those assets, and areas suffering from deprivation with low density of heritage assets to access may actually have higher levels of engagement.  There is of course variability across the country and the methodology can be pored over for what it does and doesn’t do – but nonetheless, it does show the potential for arguments of what heritage can potentially do within communities.

The Index also brings to the fore the use of proxy measures – useful at a time when in Scotland, discussion has come round again on whether the Scotland Performs framework indicator for heritage – the state of Category A Listed Buildings at Risk (equivalent to Grade I in England) – is suitable to act as a measure of the state of the historic environment.  Proxy measures are liked and disliked in equal measure, and care must be taken with them – but it does not mean that they cannot raise interesting analytical results and dialogue – as has happened with the Index.

The publication and commitment to continue to support the development and evolution of the Index is welcome, and I’ll take this opportunity to sound like a broken record (stuck in the same groove for over a decade, since I assisted with the creation of Heritage Counts as an evolution from the Heritage Monitor produced by the English Tourism Council (now VisitEngland)), flagging the need for a heritage observatory function to pull together the large amounts of data and grey literature which can add to the evidence base for the role of the historic environment in society.

A debate was held at the RSA last week, entitled ‘Why heritage is our future‘ to explore issues associated with the Index, and enable commentary on the links between communities and their historic environment.  What was noticeable throughout the debate, which was lively and interesting, was the lack of consideration of heritage organisations themselves (apart from the HLF which was represented at the debate by the Head of Research and Evaluation, Gareth Maeer).  This was surprising to me – having spent much of my professional life working with the inner machinery of conservation agencies, heritage NGOs and policy analysis. Perhaps these organisations aren’t as visible or at the front of the mind of people engaging with heritage as much as we think within community settings?  This is something I need to explore further.

Link to audio recording of the RSA debate on 8th October 2015.
https://www.thersa.org/link/bc55acf32c5e4c4191898263b18778fb.aspx
Storify feed of #heritageindex tweets

What do we mean by “cultural tourism”?

I was talking to James Hazell earlier this morning on the BBC Radio Suffolk Breakfast Show about the growth of cultural tourism in Suffolk.  This was following up on the recent launch of the “Look Sideways – East” collaboration to promote this aspect of tourism and leisure focused in Norfolk & Suffolk.  Tourism plays a key part in the growth economy as an industrial / economic sector, and from data published by VisitEngland as part of the annual national survey of visits to visitor attractions, the East of England outperformed other regions of the UK in terms of visitor admission trends in 2014, with a 10% increase in visits.  On a global basis, according to World Tourism Organisation figures published in 2014,  cultural tourism accounts 37% of the world tourism market, and is projected to increase by 17% year on year.

Snape Maltings in Winter – from EADT Article on Cultural Tourism http://www.eadt.co.uk/news/new_bid_to_attract_cultural_tourism_to_region_backed_by_suffolk_and_norfolk_1_3907314

But what do we mean by ‘cultural tourism’? There are plenty of textbooks and articles which use the term, and alongside the word ‘heritage’ it can be interpreted in a myriad of ways according to activities being described, motivations being analysed, or resources being developed and visited.  From my own perspective, it is fundamentally about the relationships which are formed between a visitor as a person, as opposed to a consumer, and a place.  It encompasses time depth, emotional response, and a complex set of layers of interaction between a person and their physical (built and natural) environment as well as other people (locals) in that place.  It would not be overstating it to suggest that cultural tourism is really about the opportunity to ‘bond‘ with a location and it’s identity – to feel it and for it to have a lasting effect in the memory as a ‘connection’.  There are many triggers which may generate this highly personal response to a tourism activity, from customer service, to interpretation, engaging activities, artistic practices, quality of environment, sense of place, and so on.  Everyone is different, so the ‘sweet spot’ to produce the ultimate cultural tourism experience is probably an impossible challenge, but it is encouraging to see an approach such as the Look Sideways campaign, which is taking the personalised approach of ‘curated experiences‘ which highlight personalised connection opportunities – with people, histories, sights, sounds and locations.

I have the advantage of being a member of the ICOMOS-UK Cultural Tourism Committee which works to understand and promote best practice in cultural tourism, as part of a wider global network which has a Charter for managing tourism at places with cultural heritage significance – but it remains a challenge to properly understand the concept and from an operational point of view to manage in a low key way something as fluid as the unique cultural identity of a place so that it remains dynamic and attractive as a ‘must-immerse’ cultural experience.