When most people are asked to identify what their heritage is, they usually answer with ethnicity or patriotism. Heritage sites and museums hark back to founding fathers and mothers. “Heritage days” feature demonstrations of the traditional practices of ancestors, whoever they may be.
But is heritage only about old-fashioned things and impressive historic buildings? Does it have relevance and resonance in the present? Must it be hermetically sealed from everyday concerns on historical roadside markers or corralled into officially designated historic districts, house museums, and archaeological sites?
A New Discussion about Heritage
There needs to be a new platform for discussion of what heritage means in the 21st century and why heritage really matters to people. For as that discussion unfolds, we might better understand what draws visitors to travel to some places rather than others– and how local communities can learn to recognize and responsibly promote the wide range of hidden or untapped heritage assets they possess.
Heritage is not a simple feature of marketing, it is the lifeblood of community distinctiveness that can transform a place into a destination and familiar surroundings into a meaningful landscape. A key to these transformations is connecting local heritage values with visions of the present and future— not relying only on idealized nostalgia or historical facts and figures, but rather highlighting the distinctive elements and cultural perspectives that make places meaningful to visitors and residents alike.
That’s what this blog is meant to provide to heritage managers and tourism professionals: useful and sometimes provocative thinking about new tools for communicating and promoting the distinctiveness of local heritage; case studies of places where local communities have been extraordinarily creative in sharing their heritage with visitors; and news stories about emerging trends in tourism, community heritage, and the crystallizing concept of cultural sustainability.
So please join us in exploring the great potential of local values-based cultural heritage as the driver of significance, economic value, and long-term sustainability for cultural tourism destinations and heritage sites.