Heritage Decision-making

An action research project – bringing together a range of partners from community organisations, universities, major national institutions and governmental bodies involved in heritage preservation to tackle the question: how should decisions about heritage be made?


Now into its second phase, concerned with democratic and open processes around heritage decision-making, MadLab has been involved in looking at how open data and citizen journalism might contribute to the heritage discussion within the city of York. York was chosen as a particular place of interest partly due to having a number of project partners in the city already, but also because it has a particularly high number of buildings listed by English Heritage as well as some of the UK’s least and most socially deprived areas in close proximity to one another.

Process, from the Manchester Workshop

English Heritage’s National Heritage List is of particular importance for architectural preservation in the UK, as “listed building” designation comes with several fundamental protections under UK law and the list is being constantly updated. Because of this, English Heritage’s designation process is the main way in which architectural heritage is preserved in England. Designation also has benefits beyond the purely historic or aesthetic.

During the process and to kickstart a discussion around heritage, community and democracy we built a simple visualisation and mapping tool which overlays open data on house prices and social deprivation (from the Land Registry and Office of National Statistics) with clustered location markers representing Grade I and II listed buildings in the city. The tool is online here, and the code and statistical workings behind the project are available on Github here, under an Open Source licence.

The project is funded by the Arts & Humanities Research Council through a Co-Design Development Grant as part of their Connected Communities programme. Partners include the University of York, the Science Museum Group, Heritage Lottery Fund, alongside a number of community organisations including MadLab.