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Prizing the past for the present and the future

Professor David Lowenthal FBA in conversation with Sir Simon Jenkins, on 1 June 2011 (venue: The British Academy).

Setting a value on history or heritage is notoriously difficult: how can one justify or quantify an entity that cannot, for the most part, be measured in solid units or physical benefits? And how often do we pause to ask ourselves why we care about doing this?

As part of the British Academy Policy Centre’s stream of work on cultural heritage, Professor David Lowenthal expounds on the necessity of caring for all heritage, natural and cultural. He traces a distinguished line of thought, arguing that consideration for our future rests on an understanding of and concern for the past. And to appreciate our past to its full extent, we must acknowledge that heritage is a living and flexible body that needs continuous revision and addition to remain healthy and vibrant.

David Lowenthal’s Forbes Prize speech discussed the need for long term stewardship of art, history and the environment. In similar terms, David’s conversation with Simon Jenkins will focus on why stewarding the past benefits the present and the future, and how we can protect, enliven, and enhance our heritage.

About the speakers
Professor David Lowenthal is Emeritus Professor of Geography at University College London and over an illustrious career, spanning some 60 years, has taught at universities on both sides of the Atlantic. He has advised organisations including English Heritage, SAVE Britain’s Heritage, UNESCO, ICOMOS, Europe Nostra and the British Museum. He is a medallist of the Royal Geographical Society, the International Institute for Conservation and the American Geographical Society and was awarded the Forbes Prize in 2010 for his services to conservation.

Sir Simon Jenkins is an author and journalist, who was appointed Chairman of the National Trust in 2008. He is currently a columnist for the Guardian and the Evening Standard. Sir Simon has a longstanding interest in heritage and the heritage sector, and has been a member of the Millennium Commission, a trustee of The Architecture Foundation and deputy chairman of English Heritage.