Negative Heritage

Carolyn Gibbeson*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingEntry for encyclopedia/dictionarypeer-review


The concept of heritage is very broad and often controversial. When considering built heritage, sites and buildings can be considered along a spectrum of positive to negative in terms of the meanings attributed to them. This entry explores the terms used to describe heritage sites and buildings on the negative end of this spectrum discussing the terms of dark heritage, difficult heritage and uncomfortable heritage before the final term of negative heritage. Dark heritage sites are those with the most challenging histories and which are usually associated with death and suffering, they can be linked to voyeurism through dark tourism. Uncomfortable heritage sites are those seen to be still challenging in terms of their histories and architecture but more mundane and day to day sites. Difficult heritage sites are in the middle of these two terms and helps to explore memories associated with sites as well as their use. Negative heritage is proposed as a term which looks at challenging heritage sites as repositories for memory but also than enables us to look at how these memories and the meanings and values associated with them, change over time. To demonstrate this, the examples of historic former prisons and asylums are used to discuss them as negative heritage and how the history of these sites affected their reuse and redevelopment. These sites can be seen as sites of negative heritage, with largely negative memories encapsulated in them (although this has been challenged with groups such as a former staff members) but yet are also perceived as architecturally important. Their histories neither prevented them from being reused and redevelopment, nor did it lead to requests to preserve them as heritage assets.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Palgrave Encyclopedia of Cultural Heritage and Conflict
EditorsIhab Saloul, Britt Baillie
Place of PublicationCham, Switzerland
PublisherPalgrave Macmillan
ISBN (Electronic)9783030614935
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 4 Jul 2024

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