Who owns the past? Cultural Heritage in the Digital Age (4 Units)

Students previewing artifact images.

Students previewing artifact images.

This course satisfies the elective or method or area course (one of these, only) requirement for the Anthropology major. The course was team-taught by Professors Meg Conkey and  Ruth Tringham during Fall 2015.

Course Description

This course is a cross-disciplinary exploration of  Cultural Heritage on a global and local scale through discussion, debate, in-class activities and team-based research projects. The course starts with our construct of what comprises Heritage (World, Cultural, Local, Virtual, Corporate, Digital, Personal, Intellectual, Tangible, and Intangible). The themes of the course will include the global and local management of heritage sites; the creation of heritage sites; the ethics of archaeologists as stewards of heritage; listening to multiple voices of interest groups; preservation and conservation of heritage; the destruction   and looting of heritage; the public presentation through digital media, museums and education. The course discusses the research on cultural heritage in public archaeology, anthropology, historical ecology and preservation, cultural resource management, cultural geography, environmental impact studies, landscape studies and many other disciplines. Throughout the course there is explicit attention paid to the impact, long-term preservation, and articulation of digital (new media) technologies on cultural heritage practices.

The class will work as project teams (two to three per section), led by the course GSI, to create a mosaic of local Bay Area heritage locations that are tied together with a cohesive, data driven website.

Course Structure

This course will be taught in a way that demands active participation by students (as well as instructors!) at every step. Traditional “lectures” will rarely be given during the lecture meetings. Instead, “reading guides” to Internet and library sources, including the required readings,  and to the broader issues of cultural heritage, will be provided on-line in the website in advance. The topics of the class will be discussed, debated, and explicated in various ways during the lecture meeting times. Activities will include discussions in small and large groups and in-class classroom assessment activities based on the discussions and readings.

The combination of small and large group discussion will enable students to explore in depth the interdisciplinary ways in which heritage places are created, maintained, preserved, and presented.  Some of the Thursday class meetings will include “hands-off” (lecture-style) training in documentation technology and information/media literacy. It will include training in capturing, managing and curating visual imagery and audio resources from the Web and other sources, recording and editing video footage, research in digital and print libraries, and critical evaluation of information sources on the Web and other published media (including documentary/TV and feature films).

This is an inquiry-based course. That means that students are responsible for their own learning. You will be expected to carry out research and contribute to a real research database about cultural heritage through your team productions. The “reading guides” and readings will act as the first step in your own inquiries. Students will be guided and coached in their inquiries about heritage by the instructional staff in sections. Students will collaborate with their section-mates as a research and production team that creates a Bay Area heritage location, with a serious plan of management, interpretation, and presentation, using digital technologies and digital and physical resources.

General objectives/What you can expect to learn

Students will receive an overview of the interdisciplinary ways in which heritage places are created, maintained, preserved, and presented. They will be provided with the opportunity for in-depth inquiry of these issues in specific heritage places. They will have a chance to develop real-world skills in multimedia authoring, collaboration, and critical evaluation of sources through their participation in building digital Heritage Places as research/production teams. Finally, students will learn to publish the results of their research on the web as contributions to the course website “Who Owns the Past”: https://whoownsthepast.wordpress.com/.