Everywhere, Everyday: Innovations in Critical Heritage Practice (Session 294)

Time: 10:30am – 12:00pm, Wednesday, 6 September 2023
Location: ICC Meeting Room C4.1
Presented by: Tracy Ireland (University of Canberra; AICOMOS), Steve Brown (University of Canberra; GML Heritage), Sharon Veale (GML Heritage), Kate Clark (University of Canberra), Celmara Pocock (University of Southern Queensland), Kristal Buckley (Deakin University), Ashley Harrison (University of Canberra), Cristina Garduño Freeman (University of New South Wales), Lynn Meskell (University of Pennsylvania)

Photograph by Kylie Christain 2023

Session Description

This round table will explore innovations in ‘critical heritage practice’ and the role they play in conceptualising and recognising everyday heritage.

Heritage practice is sometimes seen as naive, unreflective or untheorised. Yet practitioners are often acutely aware of working within political, legal and operational constraints that can make it challenging to respond to the needs, expectations and responsibilities of diverse communities – and the contestations that may arise between different groups.

As a result, heritage practitioners develop their own critical practice – constantly revising, rethinking and innovating, seeking to find new ways to give weight to what people value. Some of these forms are conscious and deliberate, while others may be incidental, intuitive or difficult to articulate.

We challenge the notion that heritage practice is inevitably constrained by or linked to an authorised heritage discourse. We will do this by exploring examples of critical heritage practice and how many of the creative outcomes developed through collaboration are simply not visible in the published heritage studies literature. We will discuss why this is the case and how it may be addressed.

This session brings together practitioners, early career researchers and academics to explore some recent innovations in heritage practice. We will draw on approaches to ‘everyday heritage’ and ‘(in)significance’, as well as case studies of innovative and creative work delivered through collaborations between heritage professionals, communities, government and industry.

We emphasise work that has arisen through co-creation, collaboration and other ways of working, and the ways in which different knowledges (e.g., held by Indigenous and marginalised communities) are increasingly challenging and reshaping heritage practice. Collectively, these demonstrate a shift in practice from strict adherence to long held approaches (e.g., the Australia ICOMOS Burra Charter approach) and protective mechanisms (e.g., protected areas systems) to a greater emphasis on community benefits and wellbeing outcomes.

We will use these examples as a starting point to explore some of the current challenges and opportunities in heritage practice, and in the process, reflect on the importance of taking a ‘critical’ approach to thinking about practice.

This will be an interactive discussion, and we welcome the opportunity to draw other conference participants from diverse backgrounds into the discussion.


Session Format

The format of the session will be a series of short presentations followed by a round table discussion. The authors represent a diversity of speakers, including emerging professionals, who work across a variety of heritage fields.

The session (120-minutes) will run as follows:
1. Welcome and introduction
2. Outline of some innovations and challenges in critical heritage practice
3. Round (or semi-circular) table discussion
4. Audience reaction, response and engagement
5. Wrap-up by an international guest rapporteur
6. Concluding remarks: Where to from here?


Session Objectives

A key outcome of the session is to better understand the ways in which heritage practice creates value and therefore what this means for heritage practice.

A further outcome is to raise awareness of the creative methods, approaches and outcomes that have and are being developed in heritage practice but are not visible in the published heritage studies literature.

The findings of the session will feed into, and be progressed by, current work being undertaken as part of the ARC Everyday Heritage Linkage project, led by the University of Canberra in collaboration with GML Heritage.

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