Britons and their Pasts
Start date: Mar 1, 2008,
End date: Feb 28, 2010
"This project builds upon international research exploring the ways people connect with the past, for example through family history, hobbies or visits to museums. Based upon a series of national surveys, this previous research showed that family history and museums were identified as the most trusted forms of historical information. However, the methodologies employed in the national surveys limited the extent to which researchers could discover what information about the past participants were receiving from these trusted sources, or the uses to which this information was being put by individuals. Through a random sample of thirty-six in-depth oral history interviews, across three generational cohorts, this project will investigate the ways in which family histories, museum exhibitions and audio-visual media frame popular understandings of the past. The construction of family history in memory, and the role family narrative plays in shaping the individual’s ‘historical consciousness’ - the ways in which the past, present and future are cognitively and symbolically linked - will be a major focus of the project. In a context where history is an integral component of contemporary political debates but adults recall their alienation from history as a subject at school, the wider questions that animate this study are relevant and timely. To what extent do family counter-narratives shape historical consciousness among the population at large, and what role do these counter narratives play in contemporary political perspectives? And secondly, is it possible to build a more participatory historical culture than exists at present, one that attracts popular interest while engaging with the past in a critical and constructive way? This research is intended as a pilot project for a larger national survey and oral history of historical consciousness"
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