Wrestling with the social value of heritage: problems, dilemmas and opportunities



Jones S (2017) Wrestling with the social value of heritage: problems, dilemmas and opportunities. Journal of Community Archaeology and Heritage, 4 (1), pp. 21-37.

In this article I consider the problems, dilemmas and opportunities surrounding approaches to social value in heritage conservation and management. Social value encompasses the significance of the historic environment to contemporary communities, including people’s sense of identity, belonging, and place, as well as forms of memory and spiritual association. These are fluid, culturally specific forms of value created through experience and practice. Furthermore, whilst some align with authorized heritage discourses, others are created through unofficial and informal modes of engagement. I argue that traditional, expert-driven modes of significance assessment fail to capture the dynamic, iterative, and embodied nature of social value. Social research methods, such as qualitative interviewing and rapid ethnographic assessment, are more suited to assessing social values. However, these are best combined with community participatory practices, if we wish to capture the fluid processes of valuing the historic environment.

Social value; community heritage; participatory practice; heritage management

Journal of Community Archaeology and Heritage: Volume 4, Issue 1

Publication date31/12/2017
Publication date online11/07/2016
Date accepted by journal23/05/2016
PublisherTaylor and Francis

People (1)


Professor Sian Jones

Professor Sian Jones

Professor of Heritage, History