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Meta-heritage: an observation

Every May for the past three years I have been a visiting scholar at KU Leuven in Belgium.  Although part of my role here is teaching, primarily in an EU-sponsored master’s degree, I do have the great fortune to see a variety of heritage sites and get involved in a number of heritage-based research projects (some of which do involve sport heritage topics).  In any event, as you can imagine much of the heritage tourism in Belgium is focused on the First World War, particularly during the centenary commemorations. This past weekend I went to an exhibition called Ravaged at Museum Leuven. The text below describes the purpose of the exhibition:

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The sacking of KU Leuven’s library, detailed in the introduction of Margaret MacMillan’s excellent The War That Ended Peace, was one of the most shocking instances of cultural heritage being targeted in wartime, and placed Leuven as having a shared-heritage of destruction with other cities around the world.  However, beyond topic itself – which is very interesting, and awfully depressing – of particular interest to me was that this was the first instance that I had encountered of (for lack of a better term) “meta-heritage.” In other words, here was a heritage site essentially staging an exhibition about heritage.  I’m sure there are loads of other examples, particularly in celebration of anniversaries of heritage legislation and heritage organizations (though these would seem to me to be a bit once-removed), but this was the first exhibition I have encountered where the heritage was the…heritage.

Of course, this hasn’t a lick to do with sport heritage – until, of course, sport heritage gets very self-referential.


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