Within the Walls: Heritage Values and the Historic City

A Collaborative PhD project in the Historic City of York, UK

Being Human about Heritage and History

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What seems like ages ago, Dr Sarah Rees Jones (Dept. of History, IPUP, and Victoria Hoyle’s supervisor) approached the team with the idea of putting in an application to the Being Human Festival, the first national celebration of the Humanities, taking place in November. After a creative meet up and exchange of emails, we succeeded in our efforts and—much to our delight—were awarded funding for our two-day workshop (more details to follow).

On Wednesday 14th May I went to the Being Human reception to meet others involved in projects taking place at universities up and down the UK this autumn. Needless to say I was curious about other projects and simply wasn’t sure what to expect. What even is a ‘Being Human Festival’ in the large scheme of things? Some may even ask “what’s the point”?

The Being Human Festival is led by the Arts and Humanities Research Council and the British Academy, held at the School of Advanced Studies, and is simply about asking “What does it mean to be human?” specifically with regards to the social sciences and ‘humanities’—that is music, art, history, literature, psychology, sociology, geography, philosophy, languages and so on. But more than this, it is about exploring what it means to be human now—in 2014—within this social environment of digital demands and technologically collapsed time. Living within an electronic ‘Brave New World’, the Being Human Festival aims to demonstrate to the public how the Humanities can help “question, interpret and explain the human predicament”; a vital task to achieve within this digital era.

Ok, so now I have the programme of the Being Human festival, I gather that there are an array of projects exploring humour, gender, voice, vision, sound, humans and the landscape or urbanscapes, advertising, politics, youth, music, rebellion, theatre and many others. All appear to involve working with a variety of people (schools, local residents, young people, old people, artists, specialists and institutions). Most are evoking creative activities such as film, art, poetry, music, the Internet—there are even projects exploring research through 3D laser-scanning! So you can really get a feel of festivity on the whole.

The title of our project is “Within the Walls: Heritage, Public History and the Historic City”. Just to give you a bit of a hint, Dr Sarah Rees Jones says this:

“we are looking forward to engaging the public through new activities both online and offline that address the value of York’s past for communities in the present and the future. There will be an exhibition of recent research conducted locally to stimulate the imagination but we are really interested in public contributions and ideas. At the end of the week we plan to link up with similar projects at the University of Western Australia to consider the values associated with heritage and history among migrant and mobile populations both locally and internationally”.

We’re looking forward to being collaboratively creative with others and essentially, we aim to be human about history and heritage. 

Check out @BeingHumanFest on twitter! Image

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