At the Center for Heritage Resource Studies, the concept of heritage focuses on the relationship between the uses of the past, local cultural expression, and the natural environment. Heritage encompasses a broad array of resources: community identity, ethnic and cultural traditions and practices, environmental resources affected by both human and natural actions, historic architecture, and archaeological ruins.
The emerging field of “heritage resource studies” reflects the need for research devoted to understanding the cultural characteristics of heritage, its importance in contemporary society, and its uses
- Whose past is to be represented?
- How are competing claims to the use of environmental resources to be resolved?
- How are preservation, conservation, and development, often inherently conflicting efforts, to be balanced?
In answering these questions, a view of heritage that stresses the relationships between the uses of the past, local cultural expressions, and the natural environment has emerged—the essence of the mission of the Center for Heritage Resource Studies. Investigation of these issues crosses many disciplines, including cultural anthropology, archaeology, historic preservation, community development, environmental sciences, and others. One of the major challenges of the new millennium will be learning how to counterbalance the effects of globalization and rapid technological change with efforts to conserve our cultural and natural heritage. Global development has begun to threaten those vital senses of place and identity that in the past have helped promote the conservation of cultural and natural resources. In recent years, efforts to conserve such resources are increasingly expressed in terms of “heritage development.”
In the United States, numerous public and private initiatives direct attention to the importance of sustaining locality and encouraging diversity in the face of increased pressures toward globalization. Similar initiatives can be found throughout the world. Indeed, globalization has inspired global movements to protect natural and cultural resources that respect this sense of place.
The Center for Heritage Resource Studies was established to help bring scholars and practitioners together to support a comprehensive approach to the study of heritage. To this end, the Center conducts and supports original research into all aspects of heritage, sponsors educational seminars and workshops, and provides a forum for debate between academic and applied anthropological approaches to the study of heritage.