Fact, fiction and nostalgia: an assessment of heritage interpretation at living museums

Caroline Wilks, Catherine Kelly

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This paper aims to explore and discuss the role of nostalgia (a concept that is inherently grounded within a psychological framework) in heritage interpretation from both provider and consumer perspectives. Whilst many cultural practitioners recognise the relationship between sentimentality and authenticity, particularly within a folk-heritage context, few have sought to examine the effect this has on the visitor experience. This paper questions visitors? ability to objectively assess objects and experiences at heritage sites, and the role of practitioners in presenting often blurred views of social history that may sometimes negate historical fact. Drawing on case study research at two UK living museums, Blists Hill Victorian Town in Shropshire, England, and the Big Pit: National Coal Museum in Wales, notions of reminiscence, authenticity, myth and intangibility are considered within the framework of the interpretive experience. Findings suggest that the visitor experience is inherently subjective, highly individual and that the concept of intangibility is integral to an understanding of the nostalgia-authenticity debate.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)128-140
Number of pages13
JournalInternational Journal of Intangible Heritage
Publication statusPublished - 2008


  • heritage tourism
  • nostalgia
  • living museums


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