Hello, I’m Robert Coutts and I wrote Authorized Heritage: Place, Memory, and Historic Sites in Prairie Canada. As a longtime public historian, I wrote the book because of my interest in why, as a culture, we decide that certain places are historically significant and are therefore “heritage” places, while others are not. I’m interested in how the process of commemoration often reflects colonialist views of the past that usually privilege a conventional and conservative national narrative.
I hope readers will take away these ideas when they think about heritage places. I hope they realize that authorized historic places are often examples of an imagined past with landscapes that are regularly idealized to conform with visitor expectations. I argue in the book that true heritage is not the depiction of the past in the present but the persistence of the past in the present.
A good summer read, Authorized Heritage might provide those who visit heritage places with a different perspective on what they are viewing and how we are trained to think about the past.