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The Relation Between War and Heritage

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    Sanne Toonen, Seminar 2, Friday  21st, November : Heritage, Why do we talk about Geography of Heritage? 

    In order to answer the main research question and related topics, it is important to revise some background information. Meaning, the origins of heritage tourism and its current position in the 21st century. Heritage tourism is not new. In mediaeval age this form of tourism took place and even the Romans and Egyptians were keen to see cultural and historical places (Timothy & Boyd, 2006).   Heritage tourism belongs to the category cultural tourism or the other way around. Therefore it is also of use to highlight, the new perspective on cultural tourism. In order to understand the complete context (Richards, 2003).Heritage as very much to do with generating cultural experiences. Visiting a heritage place can evoke feelings of nostalgia and sometimes even related to one’s past (Richards, 2003). Specified to heritage tourism this can be described as: “The Present day use of the past”, (Timothy & Boyd, 2006). One can imagine this has a strong impact regarding attracting tourism flows. This introduces the next topic, namely place.


    How important is the place of a heritage site?  In this case referring to the ’physical ’place. Research in this area is just opening up (Timothy & Boyd, 2006). However, there are strong indicators that the tourism experience is highly influenced by the actual place (Timothy & Boyd, 2006). A study states that nowadays, the average cultural tourist is more aware and higher educated (Richards, 2003). This leads to the question: What are the changing satisfaction levels of this target group in the 21st century? Together with the deterioration, limited capacity and loss of authenticity this question seems relevant and urgent for the actual visitor experience (Timothy & Boyd, 2006).

    The preservation of physical heritage places is under pressure. However, this is not the only problem. Although regulations are often in place, treasure hunting is still occurring these daysTreasure hunting goes back since ancient times(Timothy & Boyd, 2006).

    Furthermore, at historical heritage places, often a political and hierarchal image is presented of the story attached. For instance, patriotism, nationalism and political heroes. Up to the present, these places are executing their political power. For instance, nominating the heritage list for UNESCO (Timothy & Boyd, 2006). However, one has to consider, highlighting political events and power relations at a historical place, might only tell one part of the story. 

    Besides, historical places generate billions of expenditure in the local economy (Timothy & Boyd, 2006). This is another reason added to the broad range of arguments why it is often worth to preserve a heritage place.

    Finally, the authenticity of the visitor experience as mentioned is of great value. With supposedly historical places this is not always the case. Often places are replicated and many artefacts can be found (Timothy & Boyd, 2006). Thus preservation of the fragile visitor experience is of priority. Part of this experience is the creation of the “authentic feel” for the tourist.


    The Relation between War and Heritage
    War and heritage are interconnected in multiple ways. One would firstly assume that preserved war symbols and other related heritage are attracting visitors. Thus the case. Furthermore heritage plays an educating role about past wars and complimentary events.  Contradictory, heritage of other nature is also often destroyed by wars. A vivid example not so long ago is the war in Afghanistan (2001), where the Buddhist landscape of Bamyam was destroyed (Timothy & Boyd, 2006).

    Only few tourists had visited the place and the shock was tremendous. Contradictory this heritage side was suddenly known all over the world, thus the left overs. Between the third and fifth century the two Buddha’s were constructed (55, and 38 meters high), representing the Greek and Hellenic influences of that time (Ashworth & van der Aa, 2002).

    Due to wars and other competing heritage sites in Afghanistan, it only came to an inscription for nomination, but the heritage site was never officially included on the UNESCO world heritage. Despite this fact after the destruction of the Buddha, the media referred this event as “Cultural genocide”(Ashworth & van der Aa, 2002).

    Ownership plays a key role in protecting such an historical site. However, even when this cannot be prevented the new role and function of such a site needs to be clarified. UNESCO-status could help, however UNESCO represents only national policies regarding ownership, dismissing the idea of the global meaning regarding heritage.


    The significance of Cultural and Historical heritage in the 21 st century for humanity is easily assumed. The urge to rebuild or even replicate heritage sites, the political impacts, the possible transformation of a heritage site and changing meanings are all of prove.



    Ashworth, G. J., & van der Aa, B. J. (2002). Bamyan: whose heritage was it and what should we do about it? Current issues in tourism, 5(5), 447-457.

    Richards, G. (2003). What is cultural tourism? Erfgoed voor Toerisme. Amsterdão: Nationaal Contact Monumenten.

    Timothy, D. J., & Boyd, S. W. (2006). Heritage tourism in the 21st century: Valued traditions and new perspectives. Journal of heritage tourism, 1(1), 1-16.

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    Hi Sanne, Thank you for the nice article. You gave a good example of how war can destroy the heritage. Unfortunately we have so many examples from many countries that they have loosed so many heritage sites from wars. A reason for that might be that the enemy's always want to destroy the most important things for a nation like history, culture and religious heritages. Best regard Gzime. edited 01:30, 28 Nov 2014
    Posted 01:29, 28 Nov 2014
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