Last week we hosted a really lively live chat about engaging young people in heritage. In fact, it was our most popular live chat to date!
It was great to hear first-hand from young people about why they love heritage, why they think others should love it too, and how we can all go about removing barriers to engagement, and making heritage more acessible to young people.
We've rounded up some of the key highlights and comments from the chat, below:
Some reasons why our young heritage ambassadors love heritage:
- “Heritage, and the past in general, can be something to turn to for advice and knowledge, a sense of perspective, belonging and exploration.”
- “I love the idea of walking in historical figures' footsteps and experiencing things that they did every day.”
- “I really like the idea of being part of something bigger - community heritage, regional heritage, national heritage. I think that delving into heritage has helped me find my place within a bigger story.”
Barriers to engaging in heritage for young people:
- A lack of awareness of the opportunities available, and misconceptions about what heritage is and the possibilities it holds for addressing the present and future.
- The word 'heritage' can have negative connotations. Sometimes thinking about heritage as a more all-encompassing thing encourages young people to care more about it. The idea of heritage only being based in studying history, for example, can put young people off, whereas they might really enjoy natural heritage and not realise it's classed as 'heritage'.
- The quality and relevance of the heritage activities provided - involving young people in the planning and promotion of your work can be a powerful means to get more young people involved.
How to remove those barriers and raise awarenss of heritage opportunities:
- “You have to meet young people where they are” to communicate the experience/opportunity in a context that they can understand and relate to.
- Social media is essential, and can be a great tool when used in the right way.
- Reach young people through channels that they already use. If young people aren't currently involved in heritage then a heritage organisation is unlikely to be able to attract them on their own.
- Working in partnership with other organisations/services that already work with young people can open up heritage to young people a lot more.
- Seeing other young people engage in heritage is the key to new young people getting involved, whether that is physically, or through engagement and promotion.
How to make heritage more accessible:
- Telling the unusual stories, and stories which resonate with young people can have a huge impact. Subjects such as the history of music, technology, fashion and general social activities would appeal to a younger demographic.
- Demonstrating how different themes, such as education, politics, and work, have evolved over time through heritage into what they are today highlights their contemporary relevance. These themes can be used to encourage general interest, and pave the way for additional themes to be discovered.
- Involve young people in decision making to give them a voice within heritage organisations - if young people feel they are listened to, given responsibility and decision-making powers, and valued for their contribution, they are much more likely to want to get involved.
- Think of heritage as being a vehicle allowing young people to develop skills and experiences that they might be looking for, rather than a destination in itself. An exhibition project, for example, could allow young people to develop organisational, interpretive and team-working skills, and they might just happen to fall in love with heritage along the way.
- On a very practical level, remember to allow budget for things like travel and food/expenses where possible, to remove those sorts of barriers to participation.
We'd love to hear your thoughts - whether you're a young person interested or involved in heritage, a heritage professional who already works with young people, or someone who wants to, please share your comments and questions below.