Contested Identities: The Dissonant Heritage of European Town Walls and Walled Towns
By David Bruce and Oliver Creighton
International Journal of Heritage Studies, Volume 12, Issue 3 (2006 )
Abstract: As well as exerting an enduring influence on townscapes, town walls have always played a critical role in shaping the identities and images of the communities they embrace. Today, the surviving fabric of urban defences (and the townscapes they define) are features of heritage holding great potential as cultural resources but whose management poses substantial challenges, practical and philosophical. In particular, town walls can be conceptualised as a ‘dissonant’ form of heritage whose value is frequently contested between different interest groups and whose meanings are not static but can be re-written. Evidence is gathered from walled towns across Europe, including member towns of the WTFC (Walled Towns Friendship Circle) and inscribed UNESCO World Heritage Sites, to explore the cyclical biographies of town walls in their transformation from civic monuments, through phases of neglect, decay and destruction to their current status as cherished cultural resources. In order to explore this area of interface between archaeology and tourism studies, the varying attitudes of populations and heritage agencies to walled heritage are reviewed through examination of policies of conservation, preservation, presentation and restoration, and areas of commonality are identified.