On day 2 of my Archaeodeath Heritage Jam project -“Heritage Jam: Conserving the Past” – I visited two sites that helped me reflect on the significance of conserves in heritage contexts. This project’s theme is of course a play on ‘Heritage Jam’ but also intended to be a short-hand for commenting on the ‘consumable’ experience of visiting pay-to-enter heritage locations.
First, as a control sample, I visited a supermarket to apprehend the range of standard jams on sale. Some were in ‘vintage’ shapes with olde-fashioned labelling, but none of the character and aura of the jams sold at heritage locations.
Second, I went with two of my kids to the National Trust property of Chirk Castle: a site I have written about on this blog previously here. A medieval castle redesigned as a family home throughout the modern era, we explored the gardens and castle exterior and interior. Indeed, this was the first time I had dared to venture inside the property with my kids.
All went well and there was the additional bonus of lots of medieval reenactors present showing off their cooking, birds of prey, artefacts and battle skills from the Viking era and later. I even met among them, and among visitors, various professional archaeologists.
Crucially, we also acquired heritage jam. National Trust offers a rich and varied selection of conserves for sale and I was not disappointed by the range of curds, marmalades and jams on offer.
The display, upon a white-painted dresser, was itself a striking allusion to a traditional parlour scene. Sadly I didn’t take photographs of this since it was inside the gift shop and I didn’t have permission. In any case, taking photographs was difficult since I was busy trying to stop my twins running amok.
The jam pots are themselves a corporate product with consistent sizes and labels. The larger pots have the NT logo on their lids and a simply, modern format of presentation. The contents are also intended to reflect a blend of traditional recipes. Therefore, their collective display, their consistent packaging, and their contents, are all aspects of ‘conserving the past’ for the modern visitor to Chirk and other NT properties.
Putting these observations together, Chirk Castle offers us the ultimate experience in heritage tourism conserves. Here are the acquisitions I was forced to purchase: for research purposes only of course. I can’t wait to start eating into the past!