Why Do Historic Places Matter? Emotional Attachments to Urban Heritage

This research is looking at the emotional attachments that people have to their historic urban environment and identifying the factors that contribute to those feelings. 

The significance of heritage and its potential to contribute to a range of public policy agendas is now acknowledged in Scotland and internationally. But despite the role of emotion becoming an increasingly influential theme within heritage studies, the heritage sector has not yet fully evidenced the reasons why the past matters emotionally to a range of individuals. 

These emotional attachments are often latent but can be unlocked at times of change. So key questions for this project are, how, and to what extent, are emotional attachments to place considered during the designation and management of historic urban assets? 

The project focuses on several case studies. The findings have emerged from the textual and visual analysis of a range of existing archival documents and from place-based oral histories and emoji-based workshops which captured the thoughts and feelings of people involved with and/or impacted by urban change, including built environment professionals and local residents. The evidence comes from Scottish and English towns and cities and predominantly covers the period from 1975 to 2019. 

This data was analysed to explore the extent and the reasons why the past matters to a range of individuals, including heritage professionals, non-heritage professionals, and people, such as residents and activists, who are embedded within their local historic urban environment. 


Rebecca Madgin, Professor of Urban Studies, University of Glasgow 

Partner organisations  


Why Do Historic Places Matter report  

Personalities of Historic Places – Why Do Historic Places Matter?

Personalities of Historic Places transcript

Infographic: How and where do emotional attachments influence decision making within the urban environment?

Infographic depicting attachment to historic places


The report and animation were launched at this public event on 17 September 2021, which included: 


Summary of the research and introduction to the personalities of historic places concept by Dr Rebecca Madgin, Professor of Urban Studies, University of Glasgow 

Responses to the research

  • Chris Miele, Montagu Evans LLP, Partner for Planning, Historic Environment and Townscape: Why the past matters to property professionals. Reflections on the Glasgow University project 
  • Elizabeth McCrone, Director of Heritage, Historic Environment Scotland: Giving the past a future 
  • Henrietta Billings, Director, Save Britain’s Heritage: The past before us – who cares? 

Why Do Historic Places Matter? webinar


Why Do Historic Places Matter? webinar transcript


August 2017 – September 2021 


Arts and Humanities Research Council 

See the full research abstract on the UKRI website. 

Logos of the partners and funder of Why Do Historic Places Matter? These are University of Glasgow; Historic Environment Scotland; Save Britain's Heritage; Montagu Evans; and UKRI Arts and Humanities Research Council