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Language and Museums - the importance of language as intangible heritage

Unit(s) of assessment: Communication, Cultural and Media Studies, Library and Information Management

Research theme: Global Heritage

School: School of Arts and Humanities


This research project is developing a framework for safeguarding neglected linguistic varieties, which are often overlooked as a form of intangible cultural heritage.

The framework will help at-risk cultural heritage groups to include language in intangible heritage and to recognise the contribution of language to regional identities.

Through cross-disciplinary collaborations, the project sets an innovative research agenda and aims to maximise the engagement of local communities with a variety of linguistic heritages.

This project is part of the Centre for the Study of Inequality, Culture and Difference, and Museums of the Future.

Addressing the Challenge

Language is a key marker of identity, allowing individuals to place themselves within the framework of their communities and the wider landscape and it is increasingly recognized that intangible heritage should be preserved. However, as the UK has not signed the Charter for Protection of Intangible Cultural Heritage there are no frameworks in place to work with languages threatened by social and cultural change.

The NTU research team is working with museums and members of communities in the East Midlands, including coal mining and BAME communities, to explore how language varieties threatened by social and cultural change can be safeguarded as intangible heritage. This involves mapping out approaches to the protection of at-risk intangible heritage around the world and developing a framework that can be rolled out within the UK. Collaboration with community groups and other professionals is key to enhancing public participation in, and increasing awareness of, language as intangible heritage.


The NTU team is led by Professor Natalie Braber who has extensive experience researching language as intangible heritage and of engaging with cultural, educational and community networks. Professor Braber’s research investigates linguistics varieties in the East Midlands, including the ‘Pit Talk’ of coal mining communities, and how universities and museums can work together to effectively engage local communities in safeguarding this aspect of their heritage, including in her role as Co-Investigator on the Museums of the Future project.

Dr Victoria Howard (Research Fellow) is experienced in working on research projects investigating language, communication and identities. Her research interests include the language of equality, diversity and inclusion, education and professional communication.

Making a Difference

This project lays the foundations for safeguarding linguistic varieties which are at risk of disappearing and eroding a key gateway to our understanding of, and access to, regional identities and heritage. It will inform a framework and policy recommendations not just for the safeguarding of language varieties in the East Midlands, but for other aspects of at-risk cultural heritage. This will empower academics, other professionals and community groups to establish the contribution of language to regional identities and to safeguard neglected varieties.

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