The 1980s and early 1990s have witnessed a marked boom in the museum and heritage industry. Public interest in our historic environment is growing and this new awareness has been met by a major increase in the commercialisation of the past. The Representation of the Past examines this developing trend and reaches some disturbing conclusions. Fundamental to Kevin Walsh's argument is the belief that the process of modernisation has gradually served to distance peoople from their own heritage. As new horizons of expectation open up in the fields of consumption, travel and communication, the past becomes increasingly obscure and sequestered from those who own it, leading to a loss of sense of place. Examining the heritage industries of a number of countries including Britain and the U.S.A, Walsh asserts that museums should shoulder at least some of the blame for a superficial, unquestioning portrayal of the past which ultimately separates people from an understanding of their economic, political and cultural present. As the past is presented as a complete package, it loses all relevance in our daily lives. Ultimately, Walsh argues, the role of the museum is to facilitate our comprehension of cultural identity. In a world in which the anonymous marketing director increasingly dominates our lives, the key to future representation of the past lies in enabling people to come to terms with their own heritage. The Representation of the Past is essential reading for all those concerned with museums and the heritage industry.
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Introduction; 1. The Idea of Modernity 2. Postmodern Societies I 3. Postmodern Societies II 4. Conserving a Past 5. Simulating the Past 6. Heritage Reconsidered 7. A Sense of Place 8. The Museum as a Facilitator 9. Conclusion:- The Remoteness of the Past