South Western Federation of Museums and Art Galleries

Historic England report highlights the wide-ranging impact of heritage on society

The latest edition of Heritage and Society, shows the impact that heritage has on society. The report, 'Heritage and Society 2018', was produced by Historic England on behalf of the Historic Environment Forum.

Heritage and Society presents evidence on the ways that the historic environment benefits individuals and communities. It is gathered from a wide range of reliable sources including major household panel surveys, systematic literature reviews, bespoke evaluation studies and public opinion surveys. Highlights from the report include:

  • England’s historic environment is enjoyed by millions: in 2016/17, almost three quarters (74.8%) of adults in England or 33 million adults had visited a heritage site at least once during the year
  • Members of the public deeply value the historic environment: for members of the public, the strength of their connection with places creates a strong desire, and need, to protect these places for future generations - a survey of over 2,000 people found that 75% would like to pass on their love of their place to significant others
  • The historic environment is important for our health and wellbeing: Analysis of the Taking Part Survey demonstrates that visiting heritage sights a few times a year or more is a significant predictor of life satisfaction, happiness and anxiety. People who visited heritage sites reported higher life satisfaction and happiness scores than those who did not, and also reported lower anxiety.
  • The historic environment creates a strong sense of place: In 2017, the National Trust commissioned academics from the University of Surrey’s Department of Psychology to use brain imaging technology to investigate the emotional connection between people and places - researchers measured volunteers’ brain activity as they were shown pictures of landscapes, houses, other locations and personally meaningful objects, and they found that places rather than objects with strong personal ties caused a greater response in the areas of the brain associated with emotional responses
  • The historic environment influences how we perceive places: a study into the impact of heritage-led regeneration found that 93% of respondents felt that their local heritage led regeneration project had improved their perceptions of the local area and 91% felt that it had improved the image of the wider town
  • The historic environment brings people together: research suggests that incorporating community elements into heritage led projects can enable people to feel more connected to the people and the places around them, and result in increased wellbeing and personal happiness (Sayer, F 2015)
  • The historic environment inspires learning and understanding: in 2015 the Heritage Lottery Fund published research of the impact of its national heritage investment programme over the last 20 years: 67% of visitors agreed that visiting has made them have a better understanding of other people’s cultures

The full report can be read by clicking here.