The ways in which we understand and manage ‘heritage’ are changing rapidly, while the physical remains of our past – buildings, landscapes, city streets, archives, artefacts and archaeological sites – and the intangible associations of tradition, language and memory continue to shape the ways in which we live our lives.
This course poses challenging questions about our thinking and practice, and offers students the opportunity to explore this through a series of practical projects, working in partnership with a wide range of local, regional and national heritage organisations. We will help you set heritage in its social, political and economic context, and support you in a series of placements so that you can see how this plays out on the ground, for real.
“I want to know the relationship between this wooden object ... and where it has been. I want to be able to reach the handle of the door and turn it and feel it open. I want to be able to walk into each room where this object has lived, to feel the volume of the space, to know what pictures were on the walls, how the light fell from the windows. And I want to know whose hands it has been in, and what they felt and thought about it – if they thought about it. I want to know what it has witnessed.”
Edmund de Waal, The Hare with Amber Eyes: A Hidden Inheritance (Chatto & Windus, 2010)
The hare with amber eyes – a tiny Japanese netsuke – is part of de Waal’s personal inheritance, knotted into the threads of family and world history, but the questions he asks of it belong to us all.
We will ask these questions of historic buildings, museum collections, parks and gardens, archaeological sites, public and private archives. We will consider the ways in which these resources are managed, presented and explained, and explores these through a series of encounters with heritage practitioners and heritage places. What challenges are heritage bodies currently facing? What choices do they make in dealing with them? How will pressures on public funding for heritage in the UK – and further afield – shape our experience of visiting and working in museums and heritage sites in the future? And how will our wider understanding of heritage change as a result?
Trying to answer such questions provides a framework for practical work in the sector, underpinned by hands-on, supportive teaching. As well as thinking about heritage, we want you to become involved in a range of projects, working with our extensive range of partners, and to gain experience on the ground. Examples of current placements and projects include English Heritage, the World Heritage Sites at Avebury and the City of Bath, Salisbury and South Wiltshire Museum, Wiltshire and Swindon History Centre, HMS Victory, ss Great Britain, the Roman Baths Museum and Churches Conservation Trust.
TEACHING METHODS AND RESOURCES
The course will be delivered mainly through intensive workshops. These will be complemented by guest lectures, offering you the chance to become involved in thinking about major heritage issues as they develop, or meetings with leading players in the sector. We also work closely with other departments within the University – for example, Business and Management and Publishing – to supplement and enhance our heritage teaching.
We make extensive use of the extraordinary heritage of Bath and the surrounding area, including the University’s own campuses at Corsham Court, where this course is based. There are two World Heritage Sites on the University’s doorstep: the iconic landscape of Stonehenge and Avebury and the City of Bath itself; and we have links with a wide range of different organisations across the country.
Developing Heritage Thinking
This module introduces the key concepts we will use throughout the course, and provides the basis for asking how far heritage practice has kept pace with changes in heritage thinking and in society, politics and the economy. It draws on the extensive body of literature on heritage issues but, most importantly, encourages you to develop your own heritage thinking.
Policy, Strategy and Structures
What is the impact of heritage policy and strategy on current practice? How has this evolved over time? How might heritage policy develop in future?
Heritage Management: Practice and Planning
This module focuses on major areas of current practice, taught by leading practitioners in the field.
Understanding Current Practice
This research module involves the application of current thinking and policy to heritage practice. It is intended to take you beneath the surface of a new gallery, a restored garden, or a period interior, and ask you to consider: why this? It will enable you to develop a more sophisticated understanding of the ways in which the heritage sector really works, and the constraints it must work within.
This might involve work on a specific project, or a broader introduction to the work of a particular organisation. We see this as the focal point of the course, and potentially of enormous value to you and to the organisations with whom you’ll be working.
Final project or dissertation
Careers in the heritage sector include roles in collections management, education and learning, exhibition planning and implementation, community engagement and outreach, and marketing and fundraising. You might also become involved in operational management, events planning, retail and visitor services.
Not everyone will want a job in the ‘heritage industry’ and competition for jobs is fierce. Therefore, the course includes a range of generic skills and opportunities which are aimed at increasing employability for Bath Spa postgraduates in the voluntary sector, social enterprises, fundraising, and a wide range of administrative and management roles. As well as studying heritage management, you will be fostering links with external partners and with other departments across the University. These may be the connections which help lead you into other roles, including the third sector, cultural industries and tourism, or to self-employment.