Laurajane Smith

Biography and/or project

Understanding of heritage studies as an area of policy analysis and as a cultural process worthy of critical examination is central to my work. My work challenges the idea of heritage as primarily or simply an ‘object’ or ‘site’, and re-theorises heritage as a cultural process of meaning and memory making. More particularly, myresearch interests include understanding the way heritage is used as a cultural tool in the process of remembering, forgetting and identity construction; the re-theorisation of heritage; the politics of heritage; the interplay between class and heritage; multiculturalism and heritage representation; community heritage; heritage tourism and heritage public policy and the cultural politics of identity. ‘Cultural heritage and the mediation of identity, memory and historical narratives’ is the title of my ARC Future Fellowship. The aim of this work is to document the way museum exhibitions and heritage sites are used to construct and negotiate social and cultural values and meanings. It is accepted that museum and heritage site audiences are not simply passive receptors of the curator’s or interpreter’s messages, but how audiences actually engage with exhibitions and heritages and what they do with the messages they take away is neither documented or understood. By charting and comparing the way heritage is used by heritage professionals, community groups and audiences in Australia, USA and England, the project will reveal the cultural and social ‘work’ that heritage does in society.