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Essay On Heritage In Relation To Collective Memory


Describe the way our understanding of heritage has shifted and become more diversified and contested. Discuss in relation to collective memory.


According to Graham, Ashworth and Tunbridge (2016), Heritage is an inheritance which humans have received from the past, value in the present and choose to preserve for future generations. Heritage comprises of tangible, natural and intangible inheritance such as monuments, historical sites, artifacts, archives, customs, crafts, folklore, dance, music, landscapes, native wildlife, and uplands. This inheritance provides humans with a common language that allows them to communicate on a deep level and express about their heritage in a unique way to the outside world. Heritage is important to shape cultural identity and allows to show others the importance of values and significances. It provides clues to the past and how the society has evolved. Therefore, as opined by Wells and Stiefel (2018), heritage plays an important role in preserving the culture and enhancing it for local economic development and innovation in different sectors. Diversity further promotes heritage because it comprises of diverse groups of people following different cultures and traditions. However, Minarova-Banjac (2018), in the past two decades, collective memory has played a central part in cultural heritage as it narrates about time, collective identifications and changes without which heritage would be relegated to old things. The following essay will discuss on the link between collective memory and the field of memory and its importance in future work on the area.

Diversity in Heritage
According to Viejo Rose (2017), diversity is a concept that allows humans to extend and helps to see beyond their own horizons. It feeds the imagination and facilitates a different perspective of things, people and places. Together, diversity and heritage shape human relations even when they have different interpretations. However, both diversity and heritage respond to the ever-changing globalized world. Even though heritage will be preserved, there is no such guarantee it will be passed onto the future generations. Boethius, (2020), several countries face cultural deterioration due to industrialization, economic growth and human neglect. Therefore, there is a growing recognition among countries about preserving their cultural heritage and also accepting other diverse cultures to make people recognize, value and retain their cultural heritage for it to survive. For example, India holds a diverse culture due to its renditions from different civilizations in different times and from different parts of the country.

As highlighted by Tan, (2018), Heritage creates a sense of belongingness that keeps the human race attached to their traditions, beliefs, religion, and heritage either tangible, intangible or natural. Therefore, a diverse culture connects each and everyone to their roots and provides an automatic sense of unity within the community. Furthermore, it allows people to meet with other people or communities with unique cultural backgrounds and mind-set. On the other hand, diverse cultures can be a melting pot of people from all over the country and the world. This often leads to feeling a sense of alienation and being lost in understanding the diverse cultures. For example, New York welcomes people from all around the globe and comprises of large communities around different cultural heritages.

Memory and its importance
According to Bennett and Janssen (2019), a memory is created from the experience through events. However, researchers are keen to understand what people remember and how those events impact their lives either individually or collectively. The narrative often takes memories from the past even if the individual or collective memory does not feature any real historic facts. Creating memories is different from simply reading historical documents as it gives history a flow and knowledge. People remember important events when they experience it either at individual or collective level. Events like the Holocaust study demonstrate a ghastly encounter as narrated by individuals, but it is also a collective memory of many Jewish people who have faced such an event (Er?s, 2017). Past events allow individuals and communities to better understand the present and envisage the future. Events like massacre at Jallianwala Bagh in India left a ghastly impact on the minds of people and their families. This political repression made the public suffer and transformed individual memory to collective memory. Therefore, only by understand the past, human race will be able to understand their futures.

Collective memory and Heritage
As opined by Hirst, Yamashiro and Coman (2018), memory can be defined as an act of remembering and recollecting experienced events that is practiced over space and time. Human memory can remember experiences from past events and recollect them whenever they desire. Subsequently, Collective memory refers to how people and communities remember their part. The American community still remembers the 9/11 attacks and the era of World War II. These memories allow a person not to forget the important events that occurred in their nations. At local levels, individuals and families remember their history such as a vacation or family gathering. These collective memories can be about facts and interpretations and are important for any individual as it binds them with their community. Countries do not have tangible or intangible memories; it is the people who create such memories. Every individual has their set of memories but collective memories carry common themes like a single person may find World War II as an important event in the American history, but majority of people collectively remember the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings and fall of the Great Berlin Wall. On the contrary to the definition of collective memory, as stated by Hirst, Yamashiro and Coman (2018), that memories of people can change over generations. People may shift from their views and opinions on certain events, but this does not change the history of those events. Some may perceive World War II as a negative impact on the American history while some may perceive it to be positive as it ultimately ended the war.

People continuously produce memories through various narrative and activity modes, while people retain their heritage by preserving their memories through engagement with historic places, landscapes, and performance. Memory and heritage are closely related subject to particular historic contexts and conditions; however, memory keeps changing and does not remain fixed. Heritage cannot be preserved without people to remember their own history. The study of collective memory is identified as a mainly interdisciplinary field of research. Hølleland and Skrede (2019) suggest that Collective memory and heritage draw on a range of interdisciplinary backgrounds to explore the forms and functions of representing the past events. Consequently, people relate their memories with varied disciplinary aspects such as popular culture, oral history, autobiographical writing, memorial events, and important landmarks. The concepts of collective memory and heritage are linked with politics to retain the memories of political events. It also identifies the complex issues that are shared by both the fields. Complex issues such as nostalgia can be challenging to construct the past as people may find the past event difficult to remember and force themselves to remember it. People often remember past events or people by organizing commemorations and other set of practices to preserve their memories which automatically entails connection with the past. These set of practices are traditions that binds the memory with cultures, monuments, and folklores and recognized as heritage.

The difference between memory and heritage is the experience received. People often relate and tie their memory with experiences either from their personal experiences or learned from others. In contrast, heritage is tied to values and memories related to tangible or intangible sites. According to Plancher, Gyselinck and Piolino (2018), memories bind the mental life of a person that holds personal history and that makes it likely to grow and change over throughout the life. On the other hand, heritage is a structure that unites the collective history and makes it possible for the society to advance. Different people perceive differently about past events and this highlights malleability and multifaceted values underlying the views on tangible sites. Researchers suggest that human minds have also become malleable and constantly shift their views that are dependent on combination of memory triggers.

Collective memory and heritage are closely related as memory helps an individual to remember about places, events, and people. The term collective memory was coined as societies required continuity and connection with the past to preserve their cultural heritage. Collective thoughts are gathered through collective experiences shared by a group or a community. People join together to preach something sacred or emphasis on the collective thought that binds them to safeguard their identity. The essay highlights the fact that memories are connected with the experiences and people can either remember or chose to forget the memory. However, it is important to remember that preservation of heritage will entail the future. As collective memory binds people within the community through music, artifacts, traditions, folklore and stories, it holds on the cultural heritage of that community or nation. Even when there are people surrounding from different cultural backgrounds, it is important to hold on to personal identity and prioritize one’s own heritage first. Heritage can be preserved only when people possess less malleable and multifaceted thoughts that change the opinions and cultural identity.

Reference List
Bennett, A. and Janssen, S. eds., 2019. Popular Music, Cultural Memory, and Heritage. Routledge.

Boethius, A., Kjällquist, M., Magnell, O. and Apel, J., 2020. Human encroachment, climate change and the loss of our archaeological organic cultural heritage: Accelerated bone deterioration at Ageröd, a revisited Scandinavian Mesolithic key-site in despair. PloS one, 15(7), p.e0236105.

Er?s, F., 2017. From War Neurosis to Holocaust Trauma-An Intellectual and Cultural History. S: IMON Shoah: Intervention. Methods. Documentation., 4(1), pp.41-58.

Graham, B., Ashworth, G. and Tunbridge, J., 2016. A geography of heritage. Routledge.

Hirst, W., Yamashiro, J.K. and Coman, A., 2018. Collective memory from a psychological perspective. Trends in cognitive sciences, 22(5), pp.438-451.

Hølleland, H. and Skrede, J., 2019. What’s wrong with heritage experts? An interdisciplinary discussion of experts and expertise in heritage studies. International Journal of Heritage Studies, 25(8), pp.825-836.

Minarova-Banjac, C., 2018. Collective Memory and Forgetting: A Theoretical. The Centre for East-West Cultural and Economic Studies. 16.

Plancher, G., Gyselinck, V. and Piolino, P., 2018. The integration of realistic episodic memories relies on different working memory processes: evidence from virtual navigation. Frontiers in psychology, 9, p.47.

Tan, S.K., Tan, S.H., Kok, Y.S. and Choon, S.W., 2018. Sense of place and sustainability of intangible cultural heritage–The case of George Town and Melaka. Tourism Management, 67, pp.376-387.

Viejo Rose, D., 2017. Cultural heritage and memory: untangling the ties that bind. Culture & History Digital Journal. 4(2).

Wells, J.C. and Stiefel, B.L. eds., 2018. Human-centered built environment heritage preservation: Theory and evidence-based practice. Routledge.


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