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Title: An Illusion That Makes the Past Seem Real: The Potential of Living History for Developing the Historical Consciousness of Young People
Authors: Jones, Ceri
Supervisors: Watson, Sheila
Knell, Simon
Award date: 22-Jun-2012
Presented at: University of Leicester
Abstract: In the light of widespread concern over the state of history education in England, this study explores how living history at museums and historic sites contributes to engaging young people in representations of the past. It draws on theories of historical consciousness, specifically that of Rüsen, which imply that ideas about the past formed in the everyday exist in tension with learning history in the classroom. Applying Rüsen’s theory to a novel context, visits by six schools to the Museum of London and the Tower of London, enabled an examination of the interaction between students’ ideas about the medieval past and its representation in living history, and the implications of this interaction for their historical consciousness. Active, conscientious and high achieving, the characteristics of the students involved in this study were significant when understanding their responses to their experiences. However, many of the points made in the literature about the development of young people’s historical understanding were reflected in their experiences, and this study, therefore, builds on a growing body of research which suggests that there are significant cultural patterns to how individuals understand the past. From the evidence of this research, living history’s potential lies in enabling students to encounter, ideally through first-person interpretation, perspectives on the medieval past which (as far as possible) come from within that period. As a dynamic experience, it simulates the real-ness of the past, and makes its differences more concrete for students who are used to thinking about it in abstract ways. More research is needed to understand how the interaction between students and living history performances leads to particular types of historical consciousness, however, understanding living history as a performance, rather than its capacity for reproducing the past authentically, is essential to realising how it interacts with students’ ideas of the past.
Type: Thesis
Level: Doctoral
Qualification: PhD
Rights: Copyright © the author, 2012
Appears in Collections:Theses, School of Museum Studies
Leicester Theses

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