Thursday, 17 January 2013

The Past is a Brontë Country?

How the past is conserved and interpreted in the modern day is exceedingly important to how we understand it in the present. In modern Britain, literary legacies are held in high esteem by many and are known around the world. The mythologies that have emerged around writers such as Dickens, Blake, and of course the Brontës, continue to influence regional and national identities, as well as contemporary tourism.

'Brontë Country' is an recently rebranded area of North Yorkshire including towns, moors, landmarks, and the famous family home now known as the Brontë Parsonage Museum. Unsurprisingly, the majority of tourism in the area focuses on its role as setting and influence for stories such as Wuthering Heights, The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, and Jane Eyre. Through themed walks, the local tourist board invites Brontë fans to retrace the imagined wanderings of the famous family. Regular special events celebrate the region through its notable past inhabitants.

Although these ancient landscapes have histories far beyond the Victorian era, framing their relevance  through instantly recognisable stories provides the area with a 'unique selling point' that people can associate with. It also allows an intriguing unification of fact with fiction, and art with nature, that many find appealing and worthy of contemplation. Drawing in these audiences certainly helps local economies and safeguards the Brontës' place in history, but it also raises questions about the implications of the 'heritage industry' and its strategies.

Tourism is a hugely influential in the 're-visioning' of the past today. The need to find a delicate balance between entertainment and education is a central concern of many modern tourist destinations. Acting as the 'headquarters' of Brontë Country, the Brontë Parsonage Museum plays a key role in both the creation and maintenance of the region's cultural heritage. They face the unique challenge of conserving the past whilst making it accessible and understandable to present day audiences. Although, as with any museum, this can cause conflicts when considering what stories are remembered and what stories are forgotten, the Parsonage also offer the potential for creative 're-tellings' that provide much more than just a history lesson for their audiences.

By understanding 'legacy' as an ongoing process, museums, collections and archives play an central role in furthering research, reflections and finding new audiences in the twenty-first century. At the Brontë Parsonage Museum, a Contemporary Arts Programme builds upon the Brontë story through collaborations and commissions, whilst supporting the region's contemporary creatives. Through strategies such as this, the identity of 'Brontë Country' can be expanded to incorporate peripheral histories and new experiences. Importantly, however, the Brontë family remain centre stage.

Acting in association with the Brontë Parsonage Museum, 'Re-visioning the Brontës' will continue the important task of understanding not only the Brontë family's place in the past, but also the implications of their place in the present. The updated conference schedule can be found here.

No comments:

Post a Comment