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Space & Form


Although the foundation of any heritage narrative lies in a particular object of interest, the space and form given to the object are just as crucial. Take a Renaissance oil painting. The space it has been put in drastically changes how visitors understand the artwork: placed in a cathedral, the painting's religious symbolism and sense of grandeur might take center stage while if it is placed in an fine arts museum, the painting is more likely to be noted for its technical brilliance or creativity. Similarly, the narrative around the oil painting also shifts depending on whether it is propagated through classic exhibition texts or an interactive phone app for example, as the former is more focused on promoting cognitive learning and the latter affective learning. 

Forms under which heritage can be propagated include books, academic articles, exhibition texts, reports, websites, vision statement, newspaper articles, leaflets. Below are a few examples of heritage spaces. It is crucial to remember, however, that many heritage objects do not translate into such concrete materialities and solely live in intangible, digital realms.




historic buildings


national parks


post-industrial sites


commemorative sites

The Universality of Narratives 

Despite the fact that with every heritage space and form comes a different set of parameters, they are all governed by a common concept: the narrative. According to scholar H. Porter Abbott, a narrative is "the representation of an event or a series of events" (Porter Abbott, 2008: 13). In other words, narratives allow us to make sense of the world around us by arranging time and space in comprehendible structures or patterns. Narratives are present in every single heritage space because narrative-making is an activity performed by every single human being. However, the narratives presented in heritage spaces are, more often than not, the result of a conscious story building process that creates a bridge between the heritage object and the visitor. There are many technical components of a narrative that heritage actors can play with: voice, focalisation, character building, plot, immersion or detachment, pace, etc... all of which, no matter how discrete, have a profound influence on the construction of realities

Reference: Porter Abbott, H. (2008), The Cambridge Introduction to Narrative, Second Edition (Cambridge University Press)

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