Cultural heritage, including monuments, groups of buildings and sites, which are of outstanding universal value from the point of view of history, art or science (UNESCO 1972), is inherited from past generations, maintained in the contemporary era and bestowed for the benefit of future generations. While seemingly uncontroversial and due to its significant position and profoundly influential value, human beings are exploring ancient civilization and preserving cultural heritage. However, we should recognize that not all heritage represent a positive memory, the uncritical interpretation of heritage is to omit negative factors of the past.
In order to distinguish heritage more thoroughly, we use the term “negative heritage” which is defined as ‘sites that may be interpreted by a group as commemorating conflict, trauma and disaster’ (Rico 2010, p. 345). More specifically, Meskell deems that negative heritage is a conflicting site that becomes the repository of negative memory in the collective imaginary (Meskell 2002, p. 558). Unlike other heritage which can win widespread appreciation and permanent admiration, negative heritage refers to death, wars, religious conflicts and culture clashes.
Controversies of negative heritage are often more salient than its values. This essay critically discusses to what degree negative heritage impacts society positively. First, the background of negative heritage will be demonstrated via introducing a famous example of negative heritage, then the reasons why negative heritage has a beneficial impact on society will be explored by analysing an example, finally arguments will be summarised and a conclusion will be given. 2. Background The amount of negative heritage is large, since the history of human beings is also the history of their conflict.
It is wide spread in every country, for example The World Trade Centre site, which was built on the original site after being destroyed in the September by terrorists. It has now become a contemporary negative heritage which will be reminiscent of intentional destruction, political issues and death. The Hiroshima Peace Memorial is the site which recorded wars weapons of mass destruction and identified as a permanent witness to the disaster that occurred when the atomic bomb was used as a weapon for the first time in the history of mankind against Japan (ICOMOS 1996).
Obviously, negative heritage is generally associated with a significant historical event, which conveys great significance and influence. A site which witnessed one of the biggest disasters of humans is the Auschwitz Concentration Camp. Auschwitz was a small town with charming castles admired by visitors. However, it was gradually transformed into a slaughter field. In 1940, this village became the largest centre that suffered from mass extermination of European Jews. Moreover, prisoners and slave labourers from different countries were imprisoned there. According to Hayes (Hayes 2003, p. 30), it became the capital of the holocaust and was regarded as the biggest killing chamber among the long history of human beings. It is reported that, between 1940 and 1945, at least 1,100,000 Jews were sent to this camp by Nazi, including 150,000 Poles, 23,000 Roma, 15,000 Soviet prisoners of war, and an enormous number of people from other nations in Auschwitz (Bialecka 2010, p. 13). The Auschwitz Concentration Camp was listed on the World Heritage List by UNSECO in 1979, when the amount of heritage in 1979 on this list was only one thirtieth of the current amount.
It is the only concentration camp on this list until now. Hence, with a purpose of emphasizing the significance and outstanding universal value of this site, the UN named the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz as Holocaust Remembrance Day, the name of this site has been linked with failure of humanity and described as one of the best example of extreme racism and become a special code in civilisation (Bialecka 2010, p. 18). No other heritage like Auschwitz has such a shocking meaning.
Actually, compared with other historical heritage, the impact of Auschwitz had just started prior to the end of the Second World War. However, UNESCO was aware of the importance of a site which had a continuous and tremendous impact. The value of Auschwitz does not merely present huge numbers of casualties, a period of indelible past and various fields of education, it is also a new understanding of human beings’ interpersonal relationships. 3. Arguments Arguments on the impact of negative heritage will be analysed, two drawbacks and two benefits will be listed firstly. 3. 1 Drawbacks
The first drawback is that negative heritage is generally regarded as a symbol of sadness, hatred and terror. Especially for some youths, who may not have the ability to distinguish the right from the wrong; neither may they know the memory that Auschwitz heritage conveys. To some extent, overemphasizing negative heritage is a repetition of our negative past, and no guarantee of a positive impact can be made on all visitors. Some can really learn something whereas someone may only remember bloody pictures and instruments of torture in a heavy and sad atmosphere in Auschwitz.
In the view of Bialecka (Bialecka 2010, p. 10), over one million people visit Auschwitz each year, and over 60% of which are school-aged youth, whose age are mainly between 14 to 16. Youths of this age group may often lack basic knowledge and historical context of these events. Therefore, they may treat this learning experience superficially. They will just visit the camp alone without following expositors or joining a structured tour. Furthermore, profound revelation seems to be hard to obtain; also intellectual analysis of the Auschwitz nightmare may become impossible.
Therefore, forcing the youths to accept negative information would not help identify the past mistakes human made and let them to be beneficial. Also, another drawback is that most people would become depressed after visiting negative heritage, due to dark atmosphere within the site. Besides, most negative heritage museums exhibit weapons, torture instruments, photos and relics of victims. Besides, survivors in disasters that should be respected and avoid too much exposure. However, most survivors’ pictures or video interviews are often used for propaganda, which may increase the pain of the survivors.
For example, a survivor once worked in Auschwitz and he was asked to talk about his experience to visitors, which some people think is not humane. 3. 2 Brief evaluation of drawbacks Negative heritage embodies a contradiction between the desire to forget and the need to remember (Mills 2008 p. 81). It seems that negative heritage conveys most of the negative past–racial conflict,elimination, religious strife, political persecution and wars. Good things are more appealing to human beings and they always try to forget those unhappy memory. However, they cannot develop correctly without past failures.
To some degree, facing the pain may be a better choice and humans should not be feared of negative past, yet they can correct the mistakes by recognition. 3. 3 First benefit The first benefit of negative heritage is the educational value. In the view of Gilly (Gilly 2010) cultural heritage is to warn people of those past tragedies and to prevent these events from recurring. To start with, the importance of education of negative heritage should be discussed, Bialecka emphasised the significance of education to the young and she indicated that appropriate methods can overcome some drawbacks of negative heritage.
In her opinion, few people, especially the young, are clear of what they are going to see and have a correct cognitive preparation. As a result, they tend to be more fearful beforehand and unwell after visiting. She thinks that teachers’ help and explanation can help them alleviate and become more relaxed, and this is a merit of education. Also, it is necessary to ensure that the value of negative heritage can be conveyed. For instance, the school-aged youth took up 60% of the total visitors in Auschwitz, but the fact is that many young individuals treat this learning experience superficially.
In order to present educational value in negative heritage, teachers and guides should not only help visitors recollect the past during visiting, but also help them have some historical preparations, such as the history of the site, relevant historical events and historical figures, before visiting. Thus, visitors may easily understand the educational value of Auschwitz is to guide them to know about the past and bear their responsibilities and challenge anti-semitism, racism and prejudice within society. 3. 4 Brief evaluation of the first benefit
Some basic historical knowledge should be taught in advance to prevent their loss, depression and hatred after visiting these historical heritage. They should be taught that everything has two sides, those slaughter or murders are all the past time. The most important thing now is that people can benefit from these negative heritage and learn from them, reminding themselves of cherishing the current peaceful life that their ancestors gave. 3. 5 Second benefit Some believed the value of negative heritage may be underestimated.
Besides the educational value, the economic value is another beneficial and significant. “Dark tourism”—tourism to sites related to death and disaster in negative heritage (Lennon ;amp; Foley, 2000) is not a new phenomenon, it has increasingly caught attentions by researchers in recent years. Some scholars predict a brilliant prospect of this industry, while it seems that visitors have lost the passion of typical tourist destinations, such as beaches, lakes and mountains. An extraordinary experience could be the key factor for tourists to choose a destination.
Actually, most of negative heritage may not have a good appearance, but they are more helpful than other common sites, where people would directly ponder the past and be told a meaning story, instead of only a trip. Dark tourism increases rapidly these years and beneficially influences the local areas economy. In Auschwitz, the income of tourist hotels and restaurants occupy a big proportion of economic income. Also, descendants of the Jews will come every year and donate a large sum of money to help boost local community. Therefore, there is no denying that Auschwitz has become only the economic pillar within this region. . 6 Brief evaluation of the second benefit Indeed, negative heritage brings economic profits to a country. However, no country should merely rely on negative heritage. In terms of Poland, Auschwitz is its national image for most foreigners, but such a negative image represents a country cannot be acceptable to every Pole. 4. General evaluation Negative heritage is a very important part of history, the educational value and economic value can be very beneficial to society if we can utilize negative heritage in correct ways.
It is a progress cultural awareness upon negative heritage; the negative past could be helpful to understand history more comprehensively. In order to examine benefits of negative heritage, privacy protection of both survivors and victims should be taken into a deeper consideration in remote areas. Respect for the past people is a prerequisite for knowing their experiences. Also, it should be concerned if negative heritage will cause new conflicts when humanity explore advantages of negative cultural heritage.
For instance, China opposed that the Hiroshima Peace Memorial should be listed as heritage, since the nomination of this Japanese war heritage represented the Japanese invasion and the war crimes committed in China, and its value should not be accepted by everyone (UNESCO 1996). Although most people in the world recognise the value of this site and think it may inspire the next generation in many aspects, the fact is that new political conflicts could be caused and even to a controversial impact. 5. Conclusion
This essay has mainly discussed the drawbacks and benefits of negative heritage. The educational value is that people fully understand history and cherish the peaceful age is widely recognized. And the prosperity of negative heritage tourism proof economic value is still tremendous. In contrast, symbolising the dark past and causing depression may be the drawbacks. Personally, I think the benefits of negative heritage outweigh its drawbacks. Negative heritage will increasingly get attention and appreciation, and also our society will get more benefits from it in the future. 992 words Reference List Bialecka, A 2010, European pack for visiting Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial and Museum: guidelines for teachers and educators, Council of Europe, Strasbourg. Cohen, E 2011, ‘Educational dark tourism at an in populo site: The Holocaust Museum in Jerusalem’, Annals of Tourism Research, vol. 38, no. 1, pp. 193-209. Dunkley, R, Morgan, N ;amp; Westwood, S 2011, ‘visiting the trenches: Exploring meanings and motivations in battlefield the tourism’, Tourism Management, vol. 32, no. 4, pp. 860-868.
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