Locating Heritage

Module code: MU7521

Module co-ordinator: Dr Sheila Watson

'Heritage' is a fluid, contested and complex term. Its meanings and uses have changed over time. We will look at the term 'heritage' in its various contexts, as a concept, a process, and a resource. The module is designed to be exploratory, exciting, and provocative. It sets up ideas and questions rather than offering concrete answers. Your own understandings of heritage will come into play in significant ways as we debate the term and its many manifestations. We will look at heritage in historical, global, and community contexts, asking 'what counts as heritage?’, and ‘for whom does heritage exist?'. Notions of value, interpretation, and community are explored throughout the module. Overall, this module gives you an overview of key concepts and helps you develop a sophisticated language for talking about and engaging with heritage and interpretation.

Topics Covered

Unit 1 - Introducing Heritage

This unit takes you through a range of historical and contemporary notions of ‘heritage’ from both UK and international perspectives. You will be encouraged to interrogate these in discussion with others on the distance learning programme. It will lead you to question your notions and understandings of heritage, and explore the closely related term ‘interpretation’. Overall, this unit is intended to provide you with a useful framework of concepts, which will be drawn on and developed in the units which follow.

Unit 2 - A History of Heritage

Unit 2 is concerned with putting the practice of heritage into an historical context. It explores some of the major shifts that have influenced and continued to influence heritage in different periods and contexts, and encourages you to develop a sense of why it might be valuable to have an awareness of historical trends in heritage.

Unit 3 - Exploring Interpretation

This unit encourages you to think broadly about the people and ‘things’ that get interpreted in heritage contexts, and the associated communities and stakeholders of those interpretations. In particular, you will explore the processes and politics of representation, and notions of identity and community in heritage practice.

Unit 4 - Heritage Objects

Unit 4 takes an extended look at what is meant by ‘heritage’ and how it is constituted and valued in society. In particular, we look at how heritage can be considered a process which is inherently positioned in the present.

Unit 5 - Cultural Landscapes and Heritage

In this unit we focus on the changing nature and meanings of cultural landscapes and associated artefacts, and the ways in which those meanings relate to notions of identity, inclusion and exclusion.

Unit 6 - Global Contexts; Local Heritage

Unit 6 looks at heritage in the global context and explores some of the current contexts and paradigms that shape heritage practice, including post colonialism, globalisation, and  multiculturalism. It aims to provoke thinking about the way heritage is made differently in different contexts, and encourages you to consider you own experiences and ways of seeing the world.

Unit 7 - Heritage, Identity and Community

National identity is one of the main drivers of heritage. Drawing on ideas of nationalism, communities, emotional geographies and collective identities this unit will consider how and why heritage is used to develop a sense of national belonging and, at the same time, creates certain concepts of ‘others’.

Unit 8 - Heritage, National Identity and Nationalism

This unit assesses ways in which tourism impacts upon heritage and how theories of visitor behaviour and motivation in tourism theory along with research into the heritage experience help to inform heritage practitioners.

Unit 9 - Heritage Visitors and Audiences

This unit explores notions of the Other, of identity, of difference, ownership and power in heritage and introduces many of the questions and issues that require throughout Module 2. In particular it focuses on how far interpretations of Others reflect the views, values and culture of the interpreter, and how different perspectives may be reconciled in heritage practice.

Unit 10 - Heritage Conventions, Charters and Heritage Law

This unit takes an in-depth look at key heritage laws, conventions, treaties and charters that designate, safeguard and control the movement of cultural heritage, and impact on international heritage practice.


  • 225 hours of guided independent study


  • Statement, 1,500-2,000 words (50%)
  • Essay, 2,000-2,500 words (50%)