Within the Walls: Heritage Values and the Historic City

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

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What’s happening this November?

The Within the Walls team are hosting several events next month as part of the Being Human Festival—the UK’s first national celebration of the humanities (www.beinghumanfest.org):


Hello, I’m here to report on the activities we’re inviting you to attend, based at Kings Manor during the Being Human Festival.  I’m not crazy about press releases (they don’t really explain what’s happening) so I will indulge in a little promotional explanation here. And to start it off, here’s a statement I enjoy thoroughly:

“York is a city of complex, layered and cacophonous history.  The past clamours for attention, from the rich archaeology preserved in its anaerobic soil to its stock of medieval monuments and major archive collections, from the architecture of Georgian society to the invention of the Kit-Kat.”

Vicky Hoyle wrote it for our application to the Being Human Festival back in March. And since then we’ve been thinking of ways we can explore the ‘noisiness’ of York’s history. So, for the first part of our event we’ve asked fellow researchers and practitioners to take part in our ‘Exploring the Past’ exhibition (Kings Manor Refectory 17th-22nd), presenting a variety of projects that have taken place in York in the last 3years. These come from the work of the York Living with Heritage Project, the York Minster, the Gateway to History Projectthe Heritage Jam, IPUP, the Centre of Medieval Studies, and many more. It’s staggering how much happens in York in the way of accounting for history and heritage; each project takes a different angle, explores different issues and connects with different people. This diversity raises the question—why does heritage matter to so many people, and is York’s heritage special?

York, Stonegate (Kat Keljik)

York, Stonegate (Kat Keljik)

Tucking into the meatiness of this question, we also have a line-up of 6 speakers over four public seminars (aka Sandwich Seminars), all of whom have had different approaches and ideas of how people interact with heritage. We’re hoping to encourage some discussions at the end of each session about why it is so important to think about the past in such diverse ways, and what’s in it for us? The line-up is as follows:

  1. Mon 17th-“Community Heritage and the Homeless” Dr John Schofield, Dept. of Archaeology, University of York (1-2pm Room: K/133)
  2. Tues 18th– “The York Living With Heritage Project” Dr Helen Graham, University of Leeds, York Alternative History Group and York Past and Present Group (1-2pm Room: K/133)
  3. Tues 18th– [YOHRS Seminar] “Place and Past: landscape/heritage synergies” Graham Fairclough, University of Newcastle (5:15-6:30pm Room: K/111)
  4. Wed 19th– “Commemoration and Public History” Dr Geoff Cubitt- Dept of History, University of York (1-2pm Room: K/159).

And for our final public event, “Play with the Past” (Saturday 22nd 2pm-4pm, Huntingdon Room) we’ll be exploring how the relationship between humans and their heritage in terms of physical interaction within a digital age. During the open-afternoon workshop we invite people to curate their own heritage exhibition using our Pinterest board, and to graffiti our papier-mâché buildings. We’re also delighted to be joined by the York Tactile Mapping Project, whose work focuses on breaking down barriers of engagement with York’s heritage for blind and partially sighted members of the community. The team will also be on hand to discuss these activities. Families with children are welcome, refreshments will also be available.

So there we are, that’s the line-up, we hope you can join us to get involved in the noisiness of York’s past and to muse about why this matters. Please feel free to get in touch if you have any questions via wtwyork@gmail.com.



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Timeline York Plus Visit Kings Manor

Yes, it has been a whopping 4 months since I last wrote here. Truth be told, the early stages of the PhD have thrown up a couple of issues for me, and I have a developing blog-post on ethics which I’m not quite ready to publish (apologies to Larry).

But in the meantime, something quite delightful happened over the weekend. The Within the Walls team welcomed the Timeline York Plus groups to Kings Manor for their biannual meet-up. Timeline York Plus is a ‘group of groups’—or a network—which brings together York’s Local History and Archaeology communities. They meet up twice a year to exchange activity reports and have a good catch-up essentially. Details of the sort of projects undertaken and the groups that participate can be found here at their WIKI page.

We were also happy to welcome Sarah Tester, a colleague of Vicky’s, from The Gateway to History project (HLF funded project). She gave a presentation on the archival projects she has been working on so far (in fact some of them involved the groups present on the day—i.e. Poppleton Local History Society).

Interestingly, because of Tony’s (North Duffield) query into how groups in York can better interact with each other, we had an impromptu discussion about how social media can be used to this aim—which of course overlaps with some of my own project interests. The discussions are likely to continue on this topic but I did end up summarising the advantages of blogging with the group. (I hope this blog post might help)

The TYPLUS meeting at Kings Manor

The TYPLUS meeting at Kings Manor

Lastly, Ed Freedman, assisted by Alison Sinclair who kindly stepped up at the last minute, gave a brilliant tour of the Kings Manor in terms of its architecture and history. Ed and Alison made a fantastic double act and everyone was interested to hear how the building has evolved over the years, which is visible in the material remains and the brickwork. Special thanks go to Dr Kate Giles for lending us your notes and research sources.

On the tour of Kings Manor

On the tour of Kings Manor

My next blog will not be as long in the making, as we have a lot happening in the months up to November (see last blog post).


By Katrina Foxton–tweets as @kfoxton9

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“Within, or perhaps, Without the Walls?” by Katrina Foxton.

Access to your culture is a human right—it is, in fact, written into the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. If you read our ‘About’ page, you’ll see that access to heritage and culture is one of the main issues we are studying. The heritage sector is pushing to be more democratic, to account for the values of many at both a local and a global level. But can heritage management—such as that surrounding archival, built or buried remains—be open to all? Or indeed, should it should remain in the hands of qualified experts (with a ‘wall’ built around it)? This project is entering an already expressive debate (see York Stories website, the York: Living With History project and the Archaeology Dept’s own student run Heritage York Project).

So, should York’s heritage decisions be made Within or Without the Walls? I’ve typed up the following basic arguments, to highlight some key points on both sides of the debate (although I recognise that this is an ongoing and complex story).


The Council of Europe considers everyone to have the right to participate in the management of their heritage–see The Faro Convention, Article 4 in particular (2005). The benefits for involving everyone include empowerment; sustained interest in the historic environments; and a more representative historic environment which fulfils the needs of a culturally diverse community. Not to mention, it simply feels good to have your voice heard. Most potently is the call to recognise that everyone is a heritage expert in their own right, as they will be ‘experts’ in living where they do (Schofield 2014).

There are many accusations too that experts stifle heritage dialogue through their bureaucratic and, essentially, non-representative choices. In addition, heritage can become a stake over which political parties lay claim and it often plays a significant part in the presentation of places for the purposes of tourism, which can lead to the detrimental ‘Disney-fication’ of towns and cities (Hewison 1984, Lowenthal 1985). So how can experts ever be useful?

WITHIN THE WALLS—Managed by experts?:

Experts can be referred to as people who have training and now work in the heritage sector, in a variety of roles such as; archaeologists, archivists, conservationists, outreach and education officers, museum and interpretation officers, tour guides, and historians (this list is not exhaustive!) They have in-depth technical knowledge without which the day-to-day protection and interpretation of heritage would be difficult. Moreover, community participation in projects aren’t always straight forward, and not everyone can, or even wants to be included in the work of heritage (Roskams and Neal 2013). And, let’s think for example; can a group of people make an easy, quick decision about a crumbling building or archive collection when everybody has a different opinion and different values? Some theorists argue that the role of ‘humble’ experts with  ‘sensitive ears’ are very useful in such situations, with the courage to make decisions and take action based on what they know (Burstrom 2014, Wolferston 2014). There is also positivity in the role of experts who can build bridges between local communities and local, national or even international government.


The question isn’t really about whether one group of people (qualified or not) should manage their heritage in entirety. If we go back to the Faro Convention, there is reference to bringing public authorities, heritage communities and other non-governmental organisation together, essentially to share the management of heritage (see Section 3, Article 11). So that basically means we can’t simply prioritise the values of one group over others—heritage management has to be a balanced and ‘well-informed’ process (CoE 2005).

The tricky thing is how to achieve this…and that’s what we’re interested in.


Burström, M (2013) “More Than a Sensitive Ear: What to Expect of a Professional Expert”. In  Schofield, J (ed.) 101-112.

Council of Europe (2005) The Faro Convention. Available at                 http://www.coe.int/t/dg4/cultureheritage/heritage/Identities/default_en.asp. Page Consulted 23/04/14.

Hewison (1984) The Heritage Industry: Britain in the Climate of Decline. London: Methuen.

Lowenthal, D. (1985) The Past is a foreign Country. Cambridge, Cambridge UP.

Roskams, S., and Neal, C. (2013) “Authority and Community: Reflections on Archaeological Practice at Heslington East, York”. In The Historic Environment, 4. 2, 139-55.

Schofield, J (ed) (2013) Who Needs Experts?: Counter-Mapping Cultural Heritage. Farnham: Ashgate.

Wolferston, S (2013) “Ethnography of a ‘Humble Expert’: Experiencing Faro”. In Schofield, J (ed). 43-      53.