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Contested Heritage

The past matters. Heritage represents all those traces, tangible and intangible, that connects us in the present to the past. Values placed on heritage -- the value and significance given to a monument, an object, an activity, a habit or a cultural event – are locally dependent upon community and individual perspectives. Heritage is fought over, heritage is mobilized, and heritage is often targeted. In divided societies, with complex and ongoing ‘difficult’ pasts, heritage is invariably contested.

In short, heritage is powerful.

Heritage also has the capacity to heal. Focusing on the relationship between heritage and identity, and challenging the deployment of heritage to perpetuate and accentuate division, mark territory or prevent integration, requires mapping out alternative interpretations of the past. Such narratives do not necessarily sit easily with ‘official’ narratives, but hold within them the capacity to re-examine the realities of the past, and reimagine the potential for the future. Heritage can help to build open, inclusive and pluralist societies through efforts to interrogate the evidence of the past through inclusive practice and embedding heritage in conflict transformation.

The Heritage Hub recognizes, respects, and celebrates the ‘risky’ nature of heritage in considering the role of the past in resolving conflicts and dissonance in communities. Here the Centre’s research engages with established local peacebuilders such as Corrymeela, continues to deepen our established links with the heritage sector in Ireland and the UK—for example with National Museums Northern Ireland, Imperial War Museum, Irish Historic Houses and Estates, An Taisce, and the Irish Heritage Trust— and engages with a global dialogue on heritage and its role the empowerment of Indigenous communities and communities who have been politically and economically marginalized.

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