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13 Sep 2019

Whose histories?

A group of people play the roll-a-derby (an arcade horse racing game) in the new exhibition at Brodick Castle.
Brodick Castle’s presentation has been totally refreshed for 2019 to focus on its family stories.
At number 92 on our 100 Ways list we’re looking at the idea of authenticity in our historic houses and considering this with partners in the heritage field at a forthcoming conference.

A joint conference between the National Trust for Scotland and the National Trust (England, Wales and Northern Ireland) will look at what makes our historic houses authentic and what this means for how they’re presented and protected today.

Whose Histories? Authenticity and the Future of Country House Visiting is being held in partnership with the University of Oxford. It will discuss and debate what makes our country houses original and how that originality should be presented today.

It’ll touch on a wide range of issues including the ethics behind presentation, taste, ownership, identity and the visitor experience today.

Speakers from across the UK will ask such questions as:

  • In an era of fake news, is it more important than ever for the heritage sector to tell the truth about those who lived and worked there, even if this makes visitors feel uncomfortable?  
  • How can we stay ‘true’ to the complex histories of historic homes while at the same time being ‘true’ to the visitor, whose purpose might vary from a quick look around to an in-depth research visit?
  • In an experience economy, is material authenticity enough or are visitors searching for something less tangible?
  • Does material authenticity then matter? If country houses are regarded as places of escape from modern life, what kind of reality are visitors looking for today and what’s the role of heritage organisations in facilitating this?
  • Who decides which voices are heard in conjuring an authenticity of place?
  • In the quest for deeper engagement and relevance, can authenticity of use be maintained alongside material authenticity?

The two-day staff conference will be held at St John’s College, Oxford, on 26 and 27 September 2019.

The National Trust for Scotland works every day to protect Scotland’s national and natural treasures. From coastlines to castles, art to architecture, wildlife to wilderness, we protect all of this For the Love of Scotland.

In Our Strategy for Protecting Scotland’s Heritage 2018–23, we set out how we’re planning to work towards our vision that Scotland’s heritage is valued by everyone and protected now, and for future generations.