24 Pages

Heritage tourism and development

Many defi nitions of heritage have been proposed from a multitude of disciplinary perspectives, but what all defi nitions agree upon is that heritage is what humankind inherits from the past and utilizes in the present (Graham, et al., 2000; Hall & McArthur, 1998). There are two prominent misunderstandings, however, regarding the meaning of heritage. The fi rst is that something must be old to be heritage. This viewpoint illustrates a lack of understanding about the past as a cultural resource. Wall (1989) reminds us that ruins and ancient monuments were not always old. At some time in the past they were new, but they have gained heritage value by virtue of their age and in some cases their dereliction. There are strong geographical variations in what is old or new, and the concept is relative to history. For example, built heritage in the United States is relatively recent compared to that of Europe, Africa, or South-east Asia. For Americans, eighteenth-century colonial homes in the eastern United States are very old, while the Native American ruins of the south-west are ancient, yet many of these are recent relative to sites in other world regions. Similarly, there is a tendency to favour the ancient past over the modern past for conservation and tourism promotion. For instance, a traditional Navajo dwelling (a hogan) abandoned in the 1970s is usually deemed far less important in socio-economic terms than a native dwelling abandoned four centuries ago (Timothy & Boyd, 2003). Scholars today are beginning to realize that something does not have to be ‘old’ to be important, for heritage can even be produced from the recent past.