Saturday 1 September 2007

Diana and heritage

Today seems to be Diana day, though it feels to me as if it's been going on for weeks. Best summed up, I think, by a headline in the Whiskey Priest's blog: "Diana: still dead", closely followed by "In Other News: Deaths in Darfur, Iraq, Palestine and Afghanistan continue...."

The OU is about to launch a course called "Heritage, whose heritage?", which I think I'll apply to teach. The course description starts: "Do heritage objects reflect my memories of the past? Or are they different? What kind of presence of the past do I want in my community?" I think there's a big place for a thoughtful approach to heritage, particularly in this country because we have such a peculiar view of it. Part of the time we're desperate to preserve anything because it's old and therefore English (I leave aside the issue of "English" versus "British" history and identity, to which I would need to devote an entire and lengthy blog), and part of the time we're cashing in on it by commercialising it. So my working definition of heritage is "the redefinition and commercialisation of anything old regardless of its intrinsic value". No doubt any philosophers among my esteemed readership will have a field day with the concept of "intrinsic value", and I will have to revisit that bit when I've thought about it a bit more.

There was a nice treatment of the issue, kind of in reverse, in "The man who lost his head" on ITV last weekend. The show is listed on IMDB, and the user comment entitled "Good solid family entertainment" is a perfect summing up of what I thought. The ITV web page details are quite fun, especially Martin Clunes' description of New Zealand being like Cornwall but with more reggae.

Anyway, that's what's happening to Diana. Redefinition (more or less every week in the Daily Express) and commercialisation.

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