heritage so important to the Victorians? And, more specifically, why did
Richard Barter, the Victorian Irish originator of what was, in effect, a
new type of hot air bath, feel, in common with later proprietors of such
baths, that it was so important to heritage it by emphasizing its
relationship with other, older baths?
that there was already a traditional use of hot air baths in Ireland,
why was this indigenous heritage rejected in favour of building on the
culture of another nation?
that it should be seen as a copy of the so-called ‘Turkish’ bath of the
Ottoman Empire—a bath which was, in practice, quite different?
even more strangely, why did they feel a need to see their new bath as a
rebirth of the ancient Roman bath?
Ireland was one of the few places in Europe, or around the
where the Romans never actually built a bath, and where, consequently,
there were no Roman ruins to copy.
There is a certain irony here. When the Germans built their
Victorian Turkish baths, they called them—and often still call
them—Roman-Irish baths—a far more accurate name than any used in Ireland
Paradoxes of patrimonialization, the Belgian sociologist Rudi
Laermans suggests that the whole modern heritage machine is a
dynamic network of regulations, subsidies, and divergent interests.that
selects specific artefacts from the past, and transforms them into
objects which it is politically and administratively feasible to protect
precisely this temporal conservation that is the clearest indication of
the active transformation of an artefact from the past, whether material
or not, into a piece of heritage.
He suggests that this is
probably the basic operation of every form of ‘patrimonialization’
which two words he treats as synonyms. I prefer, here, to use the
emphasizes an important point when he writes:
advantage of these verb forms is that they immediately dispel the
illusion that the heritage character of an artefact from the past is
simply something observed. This is manifestly not the case. Something is
designed as declared heritage, and that is undeniably a performative act
of language and not a neutral observation.
This well sums
up a continuing transformation which took off in the latter half of the
A magnificent landscape,
for example, or a beautiful building
or even a
bedroom can be heritaged, thereby becoming an asset for sale to
customers of the
heritage tourism business.
the process of heritaging.is older than this modern discourse suggests;
for it seems to have been alive and well in the nineteenth century,
albeit in a slightly different form.
‘heritaging’ does not yet appear in the Oxford English Dictionary
I feel no compunction in extending its meaning to encompass its earlier
So while the
modern usage of the word suggests taking an artefact from the past and
deciding that it is part of a nation’s heritage, I argue that there were
examples of heritaging in the nineteenth century where a nation’s
heritage was selected and attached to something new, with the aim of
blurring its novelty, giving it greater credibility by associating it
with a heritage, and making it a more saleable asset