Biannual Conference of the Association for Critical Heritage Studies, Australian National University, Canberra, 2-4 December 2014

From the 2-4 December 2014 I attended the Association for Critical Heritage Studies Conference in Canberra. The Association was established two years ago to advance critical enquiry into heritage theory and practice. I was invited to give a paper about ‘The Heritage of Past Conflict as a Basis for the Negotiation of Identity and Diversity – The Case Study of a Medieval Anti-Jewish Massacre’ in a panel entitled ‘Heritage Inside Out’, discussing people’s engagement in heritage-making outside a formal institutional setting, organised by Susan Ashley and Sybille Frank. My paper about how diverse people negotiate the present relevance and meaning of a medieval massacre in York, UK, fit in well with other papers concerning exclusion, diversity and migration. Internationally renowned heritage scholars discussed themes around the social and political context of current international heritage events and sites and theoretical challenges faced by critical heritage studies – from China, Australia, the UK to Mexico and Canada.

The whole trip to Australia – after the conference in Canberra I spent some days exploring Sydney – was revelatory, and aroused my interest in the past and present of a place which before had not been on my radar. Issues around colonialism, land rights and cultural and political representation were pervasive, during the conference and the remainder of my visit. I visited the Museum of Australian Democracy in Canberra, a thoroughly fascinating celebration of the values of democracy and its establishment in Australia – though it seemed to represent the current democratic system unrelated to problems and exclusion in the past which were almost complacently represented as having been overcome by the advance of democracy, while to me they are inherent historic problems which are of consequence to the present. I went to an Aztecs exhibition in the Australian Museum in Sydney, went to the beach and out to the Blue Mountains, a two hour train ride from Sydney. It was a great trip and I thank the Heritage Consortium and the Northumbria University Graduate School for enabling me to go.

Leonie Wieser
Northumbria University

Image: View towards the Australian War Memorial from the Museum of Australian Democracy in Canberra

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