P. de Bruijn
C. van Boxtel
- Negotiating historical distance: or, how to deal with the past as a foreign country in heritage education
- Paedagogica Historica
- Volume | Issue number
- 48 | 6
- Pages (from-to)
- Document type
- Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences (FMG)
- Research Institute of Child Development and Education (RICDE)
The current heritage fascination signals the omnipresence of the Present. Recently it has spawned a distinct type of teaching and learning: heritage education. In this article we argue that, despite its presentist connotations, heritage education offers interesting opportunities for understanding the foreignness of the past, a precondition for historical thinking. We examine how heritage education negotiates historical distance from affective, moral and epistemological perspectives. A comparison of two exhibitions on transatlantic slavery and some of their educational resources reveals distinctive constructions of historical distance. The Dutch NiNsee exhibition Child in Chains carries a strong affective and moral perspective through a bridging technique of rhyming. These perspectives can be adopted in assignments that discuss the synchronically compared contexts of past and present. The Atlantic Worlds gallery of the English National Maritime Museum constructs a more complex narrative with little reference to the present. Here students’ sense of the historical comes from the physical experience of authentic objects on display; some educational activities emphasise an epistemological perspective, allowing students to unravel the narrative plot. Precisely the performative dimension of heritage can challenge students in heritage education settings to make them aware of the dialectics of the pastness of the past and its inevitable presentness.
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