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Whose History? Heritage, Museums and the Global Past Today

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What is heritage?

How is the history and archaeology of the past presented? How has this change over time? Who decides how the past is presented, and why do they decide to present it in a variety of ways?

This course focuses on the forms heritage can take and considers our collective responsibility for the versions of the past that surround us.

In exploring these themes, and the place of the past in modern culture, we will consider the presentation of objects and historical sites, and the role of heritage in developing understanding and identity in local communities, broader society and on a national and international level.

We will consider the heritage of things but also the heritage we cannot touch, that takes intangible form, and discuss the modern significance of heritage, in particular addressing debates about decolonisation of the global past and the presentation of heritage in the digital age.

In exploring these topics, you will have the opportunity to compile your own ‘digital museum’, considering the best way to present the past through the history and archaeology of a topic significant to you.

Learning and teaching

The module will be taught through ten two-hour sessions, incorporating lectures, seminars and workshops.

These sessions will consist of a one-hour lecture followed by class discussion and group work on specific topics relating to the module.

The discussion and group work will enable students to think critically and to contribute to the debates and topics presented during the lectures.

The discussion-led sessions and the lectures will be supplemented by resources available to students via Learning Central.


  1. Introduction: What is Heritage?
  2. Finding Heritage: Objects and Museums
  3. Heritage Places: Ruins, Archaeological Sites and Buildings
  4. Local and Community Heritage
  5. Heritage, Identity and Nation-building
  6. World Heritage
  7. Intangible Heritage
  8. Decolonization: Heritage and Global Past
  9. Heritage in the Digital Age
  10. Our Heritage: Digital Museum Project Workshop

Coursework and assessment

This course has two short pieces of assessed work which together should add up to around 1,500 words. These pieces of work have been designed to help you in developing the skills and approaches that you need to study the past successfully.

The first of these will be an object biography.

The second will be a ‘digital museum’ project, an illustrated essay presenting a short exhibition, that presents the story of an aspect of past society.

There will be lots of help and support available for both assignments.

Reading suggestions

  • Albert, M.T. et al (eds.) 2013 Understanding Heritage; perspectives in heritage studies, Berlin: De Gruyter.
  • Meskell, L. (ed) 2015 Global Heritage: A Reader, Malden; London: Blackwell.
  • Smith, L. 2006 The Uses of Heritage, Abingdon; Routledge.

Library and computing facilities

As a student on this course you are entitled to join and use the University’s library and computing facilities. Find out more about using these facilities.


Our aim is access for all. We aim to provide a confidential advice and support service for any student with a long term medical condition, disability or specific learning difficulty. We are able to offer one-to-one advice about disability, pre-enrolment visits, liaison with tutors and co-ordinating lecturers, material in alternative formats, arrangements for accessible courses, assessment arrangements, loan equipment and dyslexia screening.