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Indigenous sport and heritage: Cherbourg’s Ration Shed Museum

I am pleased to announce the online publication of Indigenous sport and heritage: Cherbourg’s Ration Shed Museum by Murray Phillips and Gary Osmond of the University of Queensland, and Sandra Morgan of the Cherbourg Historical Precinct District.This paper is part of the special “Sport, Heritage, and Tourism” issue of the Journal of Heritage Tourism, available in its entirety this autumn.

From the abstract:

So much has been lost about the culture of Australia’s Indigenous people. Their languages, traditions and heritage were dissipated under the process of white colonization from 1788. This paper investigates the actions of the people from Cherbourg, an Aboriginal settlement in southeast Queensland, Australia, to reclaim their culture, identity and heritage. The focus is specifically on the Ration Shed Museum (RSM), which officially opened in Cherbourg in 2004. The RSM is a particular type of Indigenous museum, a community museum, in which those who curate the museum are simultaneously its subjects. Through a combination of ideas drawn from new museology, critical heritage and cultural geography, the relationships between the three buildings of the museum – the Ration Shed, the Superintendent’s Office and the Boys’ Dormitory – and the displays of sport are examined via the voices of Cherbourg people. The buildings evoke stories of surveillance, discipline, punishment and control and, in many ways, sport mirrors these features of life at Cherbourg. Importantly, however, sport functioned in a parallel capacity by creating identity: sporting achievements were symbols of pride, resilience and hope for Indigenous people.

My thoughts on the paper, from the forthcoming editorial:

Phillips, Osmond and Morgan use sport heritage – this time, at a museum – as a means of revealing heritage as both a tool for collective pride and as an instrument for challenging dominant narratives. Many sport heritage narratives, particularly at museums and halls of fame, are about remembering great sporting achievements and, in this, the Ration Shed Museum is no different. However, the role of sporting achievement takes on a much broader social and political context at the Ration Shed Museum, given the history of Aboriginal athletes in Australia. Similarly, sporting achievement in this case also becomes a tool for challenging stereotypes and, as such, these sport heritage narratives provide an even more potent form of inspiration. However, the capacity for heritage to reflect both positive and negative legacies (Lowenthal, 1998; Smith, 2006) is tested here, as the “sport heritage” displayed at the Ration Shed Museum was also about anguish and humiliation. The authors aptly employ James’ (2013) Beyond a Boundary to this case, revealing that sport – and, perhaps by extension, sport heritage – is a tool for both liberation and subjugation. Perhaps most importantly, these mixed sporting legacies are given a voice, reflecting the wider concern of “whose heritage” is being told and to what end (Hall, 2008). The tourism question is left somewhat ambiguous by the authors, and one has to wonder to what extent sport will be used in the on-going promotion of the site, and whether tourists seek out the museum based on its association with sport. Similarly, will there be any tension between the cultural and economic ends of this museum (Graham, Ashworth & Tunbridge, 2000), given that many museums that employ sport, as Vamplew (1998) reminds us, are unabashedly commercial.

I am very pleased that this paper is part of the special issue, as I believe it helps move the sport heritage debate into some new and much needed areas.

Heroes as heritage: the commoditization of sporting achievement

I am pleased to announce the online publication of Heroes as heritage: the commoditization of sporting achievement by Sean Gammon of the University of Central LancashireThis paper is part of the special “Sport, Heritage, and Tourism” issue of the Journal of Heritage Tourism, available in its entirety this autumn.

From the abstract:

The paper aims to explore and develop discussion relating to sports heritage by introducing the proposition that sporting heroes can be equated to forms of both tangible and intangible heritage. It begins by identifying the nature and function of sports heroes, while delineating a basic sports hero typology based upon a dialectic process that drives the emotional responses of the spectator and/or fan. Furthermore, the paper explores the commoditization process of the sporting hero that reframes them into heritage “objects”. These “objects” are, in turn, responsible for the intangible heritage achievements produced during their careers. It is argued that sports heroes represent a hitherto unexplored source of tourist interest (specifically related to authenticity and motivation) which may add to our understanding of heritage studies in general.

My thoughts on the paper, from the forthcoming editorial:

While sport heritage, and the tourism it generates, shares many similarities to other forms of heritage, Gammon reminds us that there are some very distinctive features to sport heritage, namely that much of the fabric of sport heritage – and, indeed, much of what attracts tourists to experience it – are the athletes themselves and the sporting feats they have achieved. Few cultural processes are celebrated like sport and, as Synder (1991) reminds us, few activities are as widely disseminated, replayed, and relived as sport. The heroes and the sporting moments they create then, as Gammon argues, become artefacts, and though we can relive and replay the achievement (and, in a sense, preserve the moment(s) in time, perhaps through both personal memory and vicariously through media) we cannot preserve “the object” in the same way that we might other forms of tangible heritage. The relationship between the achievement and the athlete, in fact, demonstrates a paradox in sport heritage. Athletes age, change, and are no longer what they were – indeed, athletes are some of the few heritage “objects” that are not aided by the patina of age. However, their achievements may become more glorious – or heroic – as time goes on. Similarly, if athletes are to be thought of as a “living heritage” (Ramshaw, 2010), then we must understand them as a very dynamic heritage – where their past successes will be determined by present needs, concerns, actions, and opinions. Star athletes still competing today are frequently judged as to their potential “legacy” – that they might help to shape and determine where they and their achievements might fit in the pantheon of a sport’s heritage – and that there is an understanding that future behaviour may colour opinions about sport-related legacies. In many respects, and for many athletes, maintaining a legacy – and having a saleable heritage pedigree – is vital for their post-athletics career, and not just for the vast sports memorabilia market but, as Gammon notes, as commodities for the heritage sport tourism market as well.

Sean is one of the leading lights in sport heritage, so I am thrilled that his work is part of this special issue.

It still goes on: football and the heritage of the Great War in Britain

I’m pleased to announce the online publication of “It still goes on: football and the heritage of the Great War in Britain” by Ross Wilson of the University of Chichester.  This paper is part of the special “Sport, Heritage, and Tourism” issue of the Journal of Heritage Tourism, available in its entirety this autumn.

From the abstract:

This article examines the museum displays and modern memorials that draw on the role of football and footballers in the history of the Great War in Britain. The place of football in the popular memory of the war in Britain is certainly significant at regional and national levels; from the stories of individual footballers and local teams signing up to fight for ‘King and Country’ to the more famous examples of soldiers kicking a football over no man’s land at the Battle of Somme in 1916 and the football game played between opposing combatants during the Christmas Truce of 1914. Museums and memorial sites in Britain and on the former battlefields that reference and represent the place of the sport in the conflict provide places for tourists and pilgrims to remember and mourn these events and the dead. However, the manner in which these sites of memory frame the significance of the game in relationship to the war reveals wider assumptions about the contested memory of the conflict in Britain. Whilst the popular memory of the war focuses on the slaughter of the battlefields and the piteous futility of war, attempts at revising this perception have sought to emphasise the endeavour, commitment and achievement of soldiers. In this battlefield of memory, sports heritage serves as a lens through which issues of contemporary identity in Britain can be established and contested.

My thoughts on this paper, from the forthcoming editorial:

Certainly sport played a role in the First World War, from the many athletes and administrators who fought in the War through to the now infamous Christmas Truce football matches, but it is the way that sport – and, football in particular – is used as a lens for remembering the War and for commemorating and memorializing the conflict that is of broader interest to heritage scholars. Football, Wilson argues, provides an emotive bridge as well as a marker for many British tourists. However, the emphasis on football also reveals much about contemporary British culture, as well as how the War is understood and remembered in Britain today. As such, this paper confronts many of the issues at play in contemporary heritage literature, albeit through a sports lens, including contestation over memory and memorialization, commodification and authenticity in heritage tourism, and the relationship between history and heritage.

This is a really fantastic research article, and is particularly welcome as we enter the centenary commemorations of the Great War.  I strongly suggest that you have a read.

A Canterbury tale

I am very pleased to announce the publication of “A Canterbury tale: imaginative genealogies and existential heritage tourism at the St. Lawrence Ground” in the Journal of Heritage TourismThis article is part of the journal’s special “sport, heritage, and tourism” issue that will be released in its entirety this autumn. A limited number of e-copies of the article are available here.

From the abstract:

At its most innate, heritage is biological, and perceptions of our own origins can drive many heritage journeys.  However, like many heritage excursions, genealogical travel can also fuse objective fact with imagination in the search for meaning and identity.  This paper explores a genealogical journey to a cricket ground in Kent, where the search for a family member’s past seamlessly merged with broader heritage constructions. Through this journey, it was found that heritage could be seen as a series of dualities; a mixture of collective and individual, objective and imaginative, tangible and existential.  Further, it considers that heritage sport tourism – a topic broadly concerned with extrinsic, tangible heritage such as sport sites, sports museums, and sporting artefacts, can also be viewed through a more existential lens.

Figure 1

This paper was a bit of a new direction for me for a few reasons.  Firstly, I used an autoethnographic approach, which I have never employed before.  In fact, I didn’t intend for this paper to be an autoethnography, but it ended up almost having to be – I honestly couldn’t have written it without being self-reflexive.  Secondly, despite my broad interest in heritage studies, I’ve never been that interested in my own personal heritage. So, the fact that my maternal grandfather (pictured above, on far right), a man I never met but to whom I feel strongly connected, played a central role in my research was new to me.  Finally, this was my first cricket-based paper, which made writing it quite fun.

Ultimately this research is about larger issues in heritage studies, heritage tourism, and sport heritage, such as the interplay between personal and collective narratives, the multiple meanings of authenticity, and so on.  However, the fact that it involves cricket, England, and imagined conversations with my grandfather makes it very special to me.  I hope you enjoy.

Dewy-eyed Sentimentality or Practical Nostalgia? Thoughts on Baseball’s Return to Montreal

Montreal’s Olympic Stadium hosted two Major League Baseball (MLB) exhibition games this past weekend. They were the first MLB games held in Montreal since 2004, when the Expos – that began in the city in 1969 – were relocated to Washington, DC and became the Nationals.  The games did not actually feature the former Expos franchise but, rather, the Toronto Blue Jays and the New York Mets.  Still, the games – which drew immense crowds on both Friday night and Saturday afternoon – were widely celebrated and suggested that Montreal could potentially be home to an MLB franchise again in the future.

“Nostalgic” was one of the ways that the weekend games were described.  Certainly, having a chance to celebrate and fondly remember the Expos franchise was one of the key selling points of the games.  Both Friday night and Saturday afternoon featured ceremonies honouring past players and teams and, in many respects, the game was much more about the Expos than either of the Blue Jays or Mets.

In some circles, the games were dismissed as dewy-eyed sentimentality; a nostalgia for a past that wasn’t particularly great, in a city that – it is suggested – is in perpetual decline.  Certainly, there is a case to be made that these games could have been little more than a chance to say goodbye to a long-departed part of the city’s sporting heritage.  But, at least from my vantage point, it didn’t seem to be that way.  Rather, I was reminded of Philip Moore’s article “Practical Nostalgia and the Critique of Commodification: On the ‘Death of Hockey’ and the National Hockey League.”  In it, Moore argues that nostalgia need not just be a sentimental longing for the past, but rather can be used as a roadmap of sorts, of reclaiming a past for some future endeavour.  Seemingly, the games this past weekend were almost as much about the future – a city full of confidence, optimism, and (perhaps) another MLB team – as they were about reliving the glory days of the team, its players, and the city.  Nostalgia is often used as a pejorative.  In Montreal’s case, nostalgia seemed to be a starting point.


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