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Heritage Sites and Museums

Heritage sites and museums represent unique institutions aimed to preserve and popularize popular culture and heritage of the nations. Heritage sites and museums represent a basic aspect of human consciousness, a basic dimension for experiencing and understanding nature. To some extent, they define the intimate relationships between individuals within a culture and the relationship of the culture to nature.

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The representations of space and science are essential parts of a continuous transformation of society’s understanding of nature. Major changes in the conception of culture and heritage mark particular nodal points in the history of civilization. Following Uzekll and Ballantine1998: ‘Heritage sites and museums are ‘not necessarily just places for reconstruction of memories, but also settings where visitors come to negotiate cultural meaning” (Uzekll and Ballantine1998, p. 16). Analysis of the goals, meaning and perception of the art will help to discuss and evaluate this statement.

Heritage sites and museums are place which help visitors to reconstruct memories and past experience. While there are interruptions and discontinuities as well as long periods of stability in cultural development, there is also a basic continuity in the major transformations of the conception of culture (Beck and Cable 2002). Concepts of culture and heritage are constructions of human thought that express the society’s attempt to develop conceptual schemes for understanding nature. Major transformations of these schemes usually evolve through a long and continuous process and they eventually pervade the entire society (Black 2005).

Visiting museums and heritage sites, visitors can review transformations of the modes of representation and conceptualization of culture and heritage built upon prior stages. Developments in the modes of representation progress, although sometimes somewhat erratically, toward greater complexity and diversity. Individuals and cultures weave diverse elements into coherent wholes within their own age or epoch. Successive waves of intellectual and conceptual revolution are dynamic transformations of structures that result, at least for a time, in an era of relative intellectual calm and stability (Beck and Cable 2002).

The everyday activity of “normal science” (and art) is guided by existing “paradigms”; but this eventually leads to contradictions and an awareness of inadequacies and inconsistencies in the paradigm. Eventually, these anomalies inspire pioneers to seek a new and possibly discontinuous (and, at times, initially disconcerting) innovative paradigm that provides a resolution and integration for the anomalies. Innovations usually occur at a time of social freedom and stability and are part of a much broader social transformation. New conceptual structures often appear as a “conversion experience” (Black 2005).

N the other hand, museums and heritage sites can be seen as unique spaces with settings where visitors come to negotiate cultural meaning. Innovation in science and art is often produced by a comparative outsider to an ongoing tradition, but nonetheless one with a competent grasp and mastery of the existing paradigm, but only after a relatively brief period of exposure–brief enough to have avoided developing a full and intense commitment to it.

Innovation is achieved by individuals who possess both a competence and a comprehension of the current world view as well as some psychological distance, distress, confusion, and unrest.(Beck and Cable 2002)..An emerging new conceptual matrix, often embodied by a new social group, and an individual sense of personal crisis as well as competence, lead some people of remarkable talent to articulate a new conceptual structure that resolves the anomalies and inconsistencies for the new social movement as well as for themselves (Hems and Blickley 2006).

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To study processes of representation as forms of symbol construction shifts the focus from understanding museums as an imitation of nature to an emphasis on the symbolic operations and conceptual schemata inherent in artistic representation. It diminishes the need to differentiate between imitation (perception) and representation (construction) and allows all art to be considered as conceptual.

Like language, artistic styles differ in their articulation and in the number and types of questions they allow the artist to ask and answer (Beck and Cable 2002)..Cognitive organization is clearly more than a simple accumulation of individual elements of sense data, but is a function of a coordinated network of patterns determined by structural laws. Modern concepts have moved away from a simple emphasis on individual elements of sense data, to a much higher order of complexity in which elements are placed in a hierarchy of relations and interrelations (Hems and Blickley 2006). Structuralists believe that understanding the patterns of interrelationships is the key to understanding all intellectual endeavors.

The understanding of structure and structural principles is more than defining independent parts. It is an understanding of the interconnections and interactions of complex elements in which parts interact with one another within a hierarchy of substructures proceeding from relatively low levels of structure to superordinate structures (Black 2005).

In museums and heritage sites, the specification of the actual and potential transformations of elements and their interrelationships leads to the identification of a variety of levels of interaction within a hierarchy of substructures that continue to interact to form superstructures. The evolution of these organizing structures can be considered in all cognitive endeavors–in art, literature, mathematics, philosophy, science, and in concepts of time, space, and causality (Uzell and Ballantyne 1998).

They have identified some of the relationships of surface manifestations of the society to the basic principles of social organization and of the structure of the mind. They have identified “binary opposition” as a fundamental cognitive structure that appears in myth and kinship formations in primitive and civilized societies (Beck and Cable 2002)..Concepts of differentiation and integration, binary opposition, structured stages, and developmental progression are present in individual cognitive development and are expressed in a multitude of cultural processes including language and social organization. These structures organize and direct behavior in an increasingly comprehensive and effective fashion.

Although individuals are unaware of these underlying structures, they are the basic coherent principles that determine human behavior and experience. These underlying elements of form–their relationships and transformations–are reflected in a multitude of overt forms in individual thought and action, and in the basic structure and organization of society (Hems and Blickley 2006).

During all historical periods, cognitive structures develop over the epochs of civilization or the brief time span of the individual life cycle, in a basic progression toward increasingly complex, articulated, differentiated, and integrated forms. Prior phases provide the essential basis and matrix for subsequent development perceived by visitors of museums and heritage sites. The developmental progression of symbolic forms and of cognitive structures in individual and cultural development unfolds according to a basic structural pattern that occurs relatively independent of content. The basic dimensions of this natural developmental process can be observed and defined in a number of different areas of discourse (Uzell and Ballantyne 1998).

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Probably because children provide an immediate availability of primary data and an endless opportunity for the direct observation of the various stages in the unfolding of this basic developmental sequence, the basic process of the development of cognitive structures and symbolic forms has been most fully described within the human life cycle (Beck and Cable 2002)..

For visitors of museums, the development of cognitive structures in the child does not imply any judgment that earlier stages are inferior, primitive, or less valuable (Hems and Blickley 2006). Earlier stages in any developmental progression are less differentiated and less integrated than later stages, but each stage has its unique qualities and is an essential contribution to the basic developmental process (Uzell and Ballantyne 1998).

Understanding individual development may provide a model for differentiating and understanding parallel sequences in a variety of endeavors, including the history of art and the history of science. Such a developmental model can provide the concepts necessary for defining a “vocabulary of form” or a “system of schemata” that could be applied to the study of development of modes of representation and of symbolic forms in a variety of intellectual endeavors (Black 2005).

Visitors of museums perceive cultural meaning and feel admiration for higher levels of development and for the most advanced contributions, one cannot simply take for granted the impressive achievements of earlier stages of the developmental process. Earlier stages are major accomplishments and are essential for later development. Aspects from the contributions of each stage are retained in subsequent extensions, revisions, and transformations. In child development, the representations of early stages are often the modes for experiencing more direct, affect-laden experiences, particularly in bodily terms (Hems and Blickley 2006).

Later stages of development contribute to more abstract and conceptual representations that allow for greater generality, but they may be somewhat removed from immediate, affective experience (Uzell and Ballantyne 1998). Concepts in art and science have evolved from being relatively simple and direct to being more complex and abstract, and this development can be described independently of any judgment about the value of the contribution or the mentality of the culture (Beck and Cable 2002)..There is little indication that basic perceptual processes or mental capacities have changed significantly since Paleolithic man.

There is no doubt, for example, that individuals in early civilization perceived depth and had some conception of perspective. But it required time to conceptualize these experiences and to develop the cognitive schemata and the techniques for representing three dimensional experiences on a two-dimensional surface. Later epochs, building on earlier contributions, invented increasingly precise techniques for highly realistic representations of these three-dimensional perceptual experiences. Thus, unique contributions and innovations in style can often be coherently related to earlier works without necessarily defining an overall longterm developmental sequence or pattern. For Ackerman, changes result from probing the unknown, rather than from a sequence of steps toward a predetermined solution (Black 2005).

Though a number of art historians express concern that a search for a cultural meaning detracts from the appreciation of the creative act within its cultural context, it is possible that the understanding of structural change over the history of art may, in fact, lead to an increased sensitivity to facets of particular changes in style. Although artists in a particular epoch struggle to establish changes in style as alternate solutions to the problems posed by their predecessors and are unaware of the future direction of art, this does not preclude the possibility that their revisions follow a logical and natural order, characterized by increasing differentiation, integration, complexity, and abstraction.

Changes in style as steps away from prior solutions are not necessarily inconsistent with a natural developmental continuum in which the stages of solution, while distinct, are still interrelated, progressive, and hierarchical (Beck and Cable 2002).

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Certain periods in history provided the social freedom necessary for remarkable changes in style, others demanded stability instead of change, and the social upheaval of still other periods fostered temporary setbacks and declines. Sensitivity to the fine balance between the forces for stability and for change within a culture enables the creative artist to capture the moment and to contribute to constructive change and the development of artistic style.

Artistic style is the vector that results from complex and conflicting cultural pressures (Hems and Blickley 2006). Cultural values and technological skills determine the potential range of artistic expression; individual artists explore the options available within the range of an artistic style (Black 2005).

The stress on the importance of culture expressed throughout history and is a major emphasis in contemporary art historical analysis and criticism. for example, states that, first and foremost, greater attention should be given to form in art. A descriptive vocabulary of form would serve to limit an “arrogance of interpretation” that occurs because of an “excessive stress on content” in the study of art. This emphasis upon the study of form is not only central to an analysis of changes in style in the history of art, but the development of spatial forms is a central dimension for understanding all of human cognitive activity (Lord, 2001).

Throughout civilization the construction of concepts of space has been central to understanding nature. Thus, there must be a common structure to the artist’s creation of spatial forms and the scientist’s conceptualization of space (Black 2005).

For instance, in art gallery with greater differentiation within figures as well as with increasing numbers of figures in the picture, figures begin to touch. New figureground relationships are defined, particularly between adjacent figures. The previous sharp delineation of a single figure is replaced by a new visual conception in which there is a more gradual transition between separate figures and between parts within figures.

Overlapping adds to the representation of spatial depth, while shadow and light enrich and extend the overlapping (Beck and Cable 2002)..Shadow and light attain a functional value within a definitive relationship of form, a value enriched even further when shading is extended to gradual nuances of color tones. Color also comes to play an increasing role in the structural order of art. Similar to the early stages in the conceptualization of form and direction, color is initially used in its pure form with great contrast and only gradually is there more differentiated use of nuances of color. In the history of art, Impressionism achieved highly differentiated color schemes to express light, air, and atmosphere and this defined a completely new approach to the visual conception of light (Black 2005).

Obliqueness creates a dynamic image because it is perceived as a deviation from the invariant dimensions of horizontal and vertical. When combined with the horizontal and vertical, obliqueness provides the third dimension of space and becomes the basis for the representation of three-dimensionality. The ability to represent volume is a late development. In children’s drawings, there is a gradual development from a primordial ball, to the one-dimensional stick, to the gradual differentiation of flat from cubic bodies, to the real roundedness of three-dimensional space (Lord, 2001).

The representation of perspective and depth proceeds from an initial representation of each view considered in isolation in horizontal stripes, one on top of the other, to an overlapping in which there is a three-dimensional stack- ing, to an integration of the entire picture plane from front to back and side to side. Eventually, various views are integrated into a single, cohesive, continuous space (Black 2005).

In museums and heritage sites, visitors reconstruct historical settings and events which help them to understand the piece of art and his significance. For visitors, the mental image of an object is not a simple copy of the object, but rather a mental construction and representation, a series of transformations and operations that organize and integrate perceptual experiences and coordinate different dimensions and aspects of objects. The development of art from classical to contemporary times and demonstrates the shifting and evolving schemata in three major epochs. There is the shift from iconic to formal modes of representation and its implications for understanding modern art (Lord, 2001).

In sum, cultural history is often characterized by sudden and thorough reorganizations in which similar changes occur at the same time in diverse disciplines. These changes are governed by revisions in the basic cognitive schemata or epistemes of a culture–the set of unconscious (unformulated) presuppositions about the nature of the universe. Revisions of these presuppositions reflect a fundamental change in the conception of the world and of nature. discusses major shifts in the conceptual structure and rules of discourse in the history of science. These changes involve an entire constellation of related ideas in science, art, philosophy, and religion.

These “paradigmatic” shifts in conceptual structure occur with a beginning awareness that some aspect of nature has been either ignored or violated in current understanding and representation. The new awareness brings with it a more or less extended exploration to correct the anomaly or inconsistency (Lord, 2001). Exploration ends when there is a paradigmatic shift in cognitive structure that, for the time, resolves the problems and inconsistencies.

Subsequent research attempts to articulate the paradigm, examine its implications, and increase its precision until another inconsistency or anomaly is noted. The identification and solution of the anomaly results in another universally recognized reorganization and the cycle repeats itself. Thus, theories in science do not develop through gradual, steady accumulation of individual discoveries and inventions, but by drastic shifts-revolutions–that alter the currently acceptable conceptualizations as well as the historical perspective of scientists regarding past accomplishments (Merriman and Brochu 2005).

These scientific revolutions are initiated by the growing awareness that an existing paradigm is no longer adequate for explaining and facilitating the exploration of nature. Symbolic forms and the development of meaning are creative cognitive constructions that organize and shape understanding of, and interaction with, nature. Time, space, and causality are intuitions and symbolic constructions that order experience and provide the basis of knowledge (Merriman and Brochu 2005).

The range of available symbolic forms is determined by our sensory apparatus and neurological structures, and the innate conceptual structures already available within the society, In the history of art, the modes of representing a three dimensional reality on a two-dimensional surface have become increasingly differentiated, articulated, and integrated. These modes of representation are not inherent in reality.


Black, G. 2005, The Engaging the Museum, Routledge.

Beck, L and Cable, T. 2002, Interpreting for the 21st century. Sagamore Publishing; 2nd edition.

Hems, A., Blickley, M. 2006, Heritage Interpretation (Issues in Heritage Management). Routledge; 1 edition.

Lord, G. D. 2001, The Manual of Museum Management. AltaMira Press; 2 edition.

Merriman, T., Brochu, L. 2005, The History of Heritage Interpretation in the United States. InterpPress; 1st edition.

Uzell,D and Ballantyne R 1998, Contemporary Issues in Heritage and Environmental Interpretation. London.

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