Introduction   Overview   The shape of the debate   Themes Theme 1 - A National Heritage Collection Theme 2 - Heritage for Communities Theme 3 - Making Heritage Accessible Theme 4 Heritage and Tourism after 2014    
       
Introduction Disney Work? Case studies Heritage for All
A Place for Learning? The options for the Trust Video Package Your views 
     
 

The use of ‘Disneyfication’ as a pejorative term appears to have originated in the early 2000s, was listed in the US Urban Dictionary by 2008 and was defined as follows by the Cultural Heritage Connections website in 2011:

Disneyfication: The term is often used in a, more or less, derogatory context to state that a particular heritage site does no longer appear as 'real' or authentic, but has been worked over - or 'imagineered' - to be more appealing. Disneyficated sites have been stripped off from their negative connotations and therefore are idealized images or, in the eye of the critic, superficial and blend in what it represents. Discussions on disneyfication often arise as soon as a place gets 'packaged' for consumption. The amount of examples of sites, of which the 'disneyficated' aspect is under debate, is numerous as the branding of cities (for potential inhabitants or tourists) seldom goes without idealizing the exterior of places.

On this side of the Atlantic, the term came to prominence in 2010, when the Chairman of the National Trust (of England, Wales and Northern Ireland), Sir Simon Jenkins was accused of “intellectual slumming” in a bid to attract new audiences to its properties by making them more accessible to the public “by opening up roped-off areas, recreating historical scenes, lighting fires and getting rid of ‘do not touch’ signs as part of the ‘Bringing Houses to Life’ project.”

In response, Sir Simon said: “There's simply no question that we do want to change the way National Trust houses are presented. We are part of a general trend to move houses away from being simply museums to more active living properties. I'm bringing these houses in some sense back to life from decades of museology and they are infinitely more popular. Visitor figures have just soared.”

In a few words Sir Simon has encapsulated the nub of an often polarised debate.

More recently, Westminster Government plans to convert English Heritage into a self-financing charity drew similar criticisms and concerns to the effect that the intellectual value and presentation of its heritage properties would have to be demeaned in order to attract more visitors and donations.

For the National Trust for Scotland, a charity from its 1931 inception, the need to grow membership, encourage more visitors and seek donations has always been the reality. Whereas for most of the Trust’s history visitors to properties were content with a guidebook and a tour, there are new realities to deal with in the 21st century: