Skip to 0 minutes and 14 seconds So I’m going to look at the James Madison’s Montpelier. He was a president of the United States, one of the early founding fathers. This was in his autobiography mentioned that he built for himself as a plantation. Here, you see, this structure here is an attempt reconstructing the slave holders. It’s very close to the house. So the interpreters at the site were very hopeful that they could not only tell the story of how important James Madison was to the early development of the constitution in the United States, but also to get them to realize that he was also a complex man that there were difficulties.
Skip to 0 minutes and 53 seconds Because he was also a slave owner, which is a bit of a hypocrisy in the United States that they’re still struggling with. So they asked me to talk to people about slave sites to find out if people were engaging.
Skip to 1 minute and 10 seconds I asked additional questions here I decide. So I would ask my questions. We talk about the site, and then I’d say, “did you notice the slavery site? Can I talk to you about that, Now?” 70% said, ‘‘What’s slavery site? We didn’t see anything.” Now, the tour took them through that. There was an archaeological excavation going on at the time, and most of my respondents said they didn’t see it. So there’s a cognitive dissonance going on there. There’s another side in England that I surveyed, Haywood House, which was a cousin of the queen who lives there. And they also had that house built on the persons of slavery. At the time I was surveying, they had an exhibition on enslavement.
Skip to 2 minutes and 0 seconds And I was standing in the gallery asking people, “what did they think of slavery?” 30% in that house said, “what is the exhibition on slavery? “ And I would be standing there with the banner. So they’re just next to me saying this is an exhibition on slavery. So that was a cognitive distance. It was very interesting the ways in which people simply didn’t see what they didn’t want to see.
Skip to 2 minutes and 26 seconds But there were passive way of ignoring something that they did not like. But there were more active wise, in which people close down the possibility of education. And it’s a reinforcement of an emotional indifference. And this was done through the use of cliches. History tends to repeat itself. So if we don’t learn from the past, we are condemned to repeat it. It’s a cliche in English. Well, societies moved on basically a lot. They’re saying some very simplistic cliche statements that are closing down cognitive engagement. They’re closing down thinking. It’s an emotional distance. I don’t want to have to look at this stuff. You know, it’s just the way history repeats itself. You know, it’s just history.
Skip to 3 minutes and 22 seconds Some could use a little bit more active. I’m not going to deal with this by saying it’s an educational event I realize that. But it for the education of the public, it’s not for educating me. You know, it’s very educational which became a code for year, whatever. It’s a response I’m going to give you. I’m gonna to tell you it’s educational, but it’s really hard to affect that I actually don’t care in the context of the rest of the interview. But there was also an attempt to actively construct indifference to negative history by saying all about this is irrelevant. So this is a person speaking at the house that I told you built on slavery there.
Skip to 4 minutes and 6 seconds We’re doing this experimental exhibition on slavery. “It’s all completely irrelevant. We haven’t come to see this.” She is going to the site. Let’s come to say about queen, the queens and queen Mary. In particular, I didn’t want to say this. I don’t want to say it’s constructing the sense of emotional indifference that allows people to not engage with the educational content. And here’s further examples of people using cliches or what we might call self sufficient arguments to say, you know, it was the past all happened in the past. It doesn’t matter.
Skip to 4 minutes and 39 seconds It can’t be responsible for the past. It was just the times and moral values have changed. Now, these are interesting because they can say in relation to slavery they can’t be responsible in the past. It’s times have changed. But if you took them into the next, it is the site where talked about the president or talked about the aristocracy, then they passed memory. And it was important to the sense of identity. The indifference is an important point. I’m making its indifference as an important emotional time that people adopt. Now I did say that eleven percent of people did have some change of use when they went through. So there was summary, positive educational performance is going on.
Skip to 5 minutes and 27 seconds Every time that occurred, where there was a change of you, what had happened was that the curatorial staff or the interpretive stuff were unable to engender deep empathy in their business. People, they were able to help people make or the people themselves actually wasn’t always in response to curatorial messages, but sometimes in response to what people themselves were doing at the site. When they were able to experience empathy that was linked to a deep imagination, their views changed.
Skip to 6 minutes and 4 seconds So I’m not saying there is quite considerable debate in heritage and museum and tourism studies that says empathy is actually not very useful feeling, not a useful emotion, because people would say, yes, I felt the pain of the other, I can move on. I’ve done it, I felt my respect, I felt their pain. You know, I’ve got a T- shirt, I can move on.
Skip to 6 minutes and 30 seconds Yes, I had a lot of people who did that. And of course, they’ve never changed. But when they felt a deep empathy whether they were able to link it to particular people in the past or in the present and be able to go, I didn’t know, I never knew what it was like, I didn’t understand, I can’t imagine what it would have been like to live back then, or to experience racism or whatever it may be. When people had those feelings, then we got major painfully happening with pain.
Skip to 7 minutes and 7 seconds Having said that, major painfully is in four and a half thousand people that I interviewed, there was four people who came away and said, ‘‘I’ve totally changed what I think, my behavior will be changed?” I think that doesn’t necessarily reflect badly on people, but it has something to say about how we interpret sites. The ways in which we interpret sites needs to be more engaged with people’s emotions that we need to understand how people block out things that are uncomfortable for them, but also how they do engage with the uncomfortable? How do we engender empathy?
Skip to 7 minutes and 47 seconds So I think we need to look at those emotions to understand, how we can produce interpretation at heritage sites that is more meaningful for people and has more of social consequence, and ultimately perhaps even more educational consequence.
Heritage performance - education
In this video, you will know the heritage performance of education with some examples of why people feel reinforced when they visit heritage sites.
How can we produce interpretation at heritage sites to make it more of social consequence and more educational consequence?
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