Scalar sustainability in UNESCO’s industrial heritage : community geographies of the slate landscapes of Northwest Wales
As a country ubiquitous with industry and the industrial revolution, the identity of the United Kingdom, and Wales specifically, is rooted into the mines, mills, and factories which drove the nation’s development. However, as much of that industry has now left, communities remain with cultural, economic, and environmental scars. One world-wide solution to this shift has been tourism (Çela, Lankford, Knowles-Lankford 2009; Cuccia, Guccio, and Rizzo 2016; Di Giovine 2008; Pérez-Álvarez et al. 2016; Xie 2015). However, while there are always many promises of sustainable economic growth and/or opportunities that result from industrial heritage, particularly the prestige of a UNESCO World Heritage designation, there have not been many systematic assessments of those impacts (Harrison and Hitchcock 2005) compared to the number of studies focused on cultural and political implications (Baird 2013; Muehlebach 2017). This paper seeks to determine how cultural and economic values intersect with sustainable tourism and industrial heritage in the bidding, planning, and implementation of The Slate Landscape of Northwest Wales UNESCO World Heritage Site. Driven by community-generated questions of over-tourism and sustainable heritage across cultural, economic, and political leaders, this work partners 13 transdisciplinary industrial heritage scholars from Michigan Technological University with heritage scholars at Bangor University to work alongside community members in evaluating the long-term impacts and planning of the recently designated WHS. Utilizing ethnographic, geospatial, and archaeological methods, this paper not only answers the scope of sustainability across the slate heritage landscapes, but steps back in self-reflection upon the role of community-based research in institutionalized industrial heritage, such as UNESCO’s World Heritage Sites. Furthermore, engaging geographical theories and methods in industrial heritage further links historical, but often overlooked, transdisciplinary possibilities (DeSilvey and Edensor 2013; Emery 2018; Warren 2017).
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