The UMass Amherst Center for Heritage and Society (CHS) is an interdisciplinary research center founded by Professor Elizabeth Chilton and Neil Silberman in the University’s College of Behavioral and Social Sciences. The goal of the CHS is to craft new approaches to heritage conservation and communication around the world. Established as a permanent center in 2009, CHS offers research opportunities for scholars working in a broad range of heritage related fields, including archaeology, anthropology, history, environmental science, landscape architecture and regional planning, European studies, Native American Indian Studies, Afro-American Studies, Classics, legal studies, and public policy. Additionally, the Center provides undergraduate and graduate students with training and experience in heritage policy, planning, and management. 

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Crafting new approaches to heritage conservation
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One of the main objectives of the CHS is to create academic-public partnerships and work with local communities to evaluate and safeguard their unique cultural heritage. It is with that objective in mind the CHS looks forward to a long and productive collaboration with the people of Eleuthera. The CHS would like to be engaged in faculty and student research and teaching projects throughout the year—projects that meet agreed-upon community needs. In doing so, one of the underlying principals is that we seek to build capacity and sustainability among island residents. The CHS has an associated international journal, Heritage & Society. It is our hope that our collaborative work on Eleuthera can be highlighted in the journal and in other academic publications as a way to promote Eleuthera as a successful case study in sustainable, ethical, and community-based heritage management. Funding for CHS work on Eleuthera will come from academic research grants, study abroad tuition from students, and proposals to private foundations and individuals.

Recent Accomplishments:

We have recently received (2012) support from two private foundations to begin two community-engaged projects on Eleuthera:

(1)  The Construction of the “One Eleuthera Web Portal” (Integrated Content and Constituent Relationship Manager)

The web portal provides an online public face for the One Eleuthera coalition to present information about projects that are underway or planned on the Island, to publicize events, and to support online fundraising. Additionally, it will provide a medium for reporting and interacting among client organizations/stakeholders who become members of the One Eleuthera coalition and have a share in its activities. These coalition members can post projects, coordinate fundraising campaigns, and advertise events to publicize to the broader community. CHS will use the same tools within the online portal to communicate their work. The portal will also provide a private, “back office” toolkit for managing contact data, fundraising, events, and mass mailings.

Purposes of the web portal are: (1) presentation of information and engagement with various publics, (2) fundraising for partner organizations, and (3) back office management of constituent data (e.g. contacts, donations, volunteering, email lists, etc.)

(2) Heritage Assessment Project in Cupid’s Cay

The goal of this project is to begin photographic documentation and mapping of the Cupid’s Cay and Governor’s Harbour standing structures, with general assessment of the state-of-preservation of the various structures, the potential for archaeological remains, and the connection to contemporary communities in Governor’s Harbour. This assessment will be carried out by faculty and student researchers from UMass Amherst and will include interviews and meetings with local community members. An additional task will be to convey the principles of historic preservation to the members of local community groups and schools as a basis for continued local cooperation in the conservation of built heritage and its connection to heritage values and practices. The final product of this initial project component will be a report and recommendations for exploring the potential of tangible and intangible heritage in Governor’s Harbour and Cupid’s Cay. It will include recommendations for a long-term historic preservation strategy and a proposal for next steps and funding possibilities. This report and the photographs and interviews will be published on the One Eleuthera Web Portal, which is designed and implemented by CHS. This document will ideally serve as the basis of local planning of the historic district and will determine the future work of ECHP. This project was begun in March 2012 and we plan to complete it by July 2012.

Aside from these specific projects, we propose to initiate a study abroad program, beginning with an undergraduate course “Heritage Development and Community Engagement: Eleuthera, Bahamas as a Case Study,” in Spring of 2013. This course will be taught at UMass, with 15 students coming during Spring Break 2013. We then plan to offer a Cultural Heritage Field School in the Summer of 2013. This Field School will include archaeology, historic buildings, survey, intangible heritage and ecology. We would plan to ramp up the study abroad program such that students would come for the whole semester or nearly the whole semester once a year beginning in 2013. The Study Abroad program would link the research projects of the Center for Heritage and Society to the academic mission of the University and the outreach mission of One Eleuthera. The Study Abroad courses would be modeled on Community Service Learning pedagogy, such that student projects would be designed to meet community needs.

Click here for a free copy of the report.

Current Staff and Volunteers:

The current staff of the Center for Heritage and Society includes:

  • Professor Elizabeth S. Chilton, Director
  • Neil A. Silberman, Coordinator of Projects and Policy Initiatives
  • Angela Labrador, Graduate Research Assistant and Lead Web Portal Developer
  • Grace Cleary, Graduate Research Assistant
Governing Board and Membership:

Faculty Steering Committee:

  • Jane Anderson, Assistant Professor, Anthropology 
  • Whitney Battle-Baptiste, Assistant Professor, Anthropology
  • James Boyce, Professor, Economics, Director, Program on Development, Peacebuilding, and the Environment, Political Economy Research Institute 
  • Elizabeth Brabec, Professor and Department Head, Landscape Architecture and Regional Planning
  • Kathleen Brown-Perez, Commonwealth College, Co-Chair of the Five College Native American Indian Studies Committee
  • David Glassberg, Professor, Public History Program, History 
  • David Mednicoff, Assistant Professor, Public Policy and Administration
  • Steve Pendery, Director of UMass Archaeological Services
  • Cathy Portugues, Comparative Literature, Director of the Interdepartmental Program in Film Studies
  • Amilcar Shabazz, Chair, W. E. B. Du Bois Department of Afro-American Studies
  • Lisa Wexler, Assistant Professor, Public Health
  • James Young, Professor, Judaic and Near Eastern Studies

Faculty Affiliates:

  • Ethan Carr, Associate Professor, Landscape Architecture and Regional Planning
  • Rachel Martin, Assistant Professor, History
  • Flavia Montenegro-Menezes, Assistant Professor, Landscape Architecture and Regional Planning