This paper picks up from extensive literatures that have addressed the relationship of heritage to national identity. Much work focuses upon the symbolic construction of the past through heritage institutions, but in so doing it tends to underplay the affective experience of heritage sites. The paper argues that it is the felt experience and the organisation of sensibilities towards heritage which are often as important, and these have racialised modalities. The paper thus looks at attempts to foster civic inclusion and argues that they need to work through not just civic openness but felt exclusions and fears. The paper takes two canonical heritage sites to exemplify these issues. First, the British Museum was chosen as an urban national institution that is conventionally seen speaking in an unemotive, pedagogical register. The history of the museum as collecting artefacts from around the world and bringing them to London is related to diasporic communities’ feelings about the collections focusing on the Oceanic gallery. The second exemplar is the English Lake District, chosen as a rural national park that is seen to mobilise more visceral affective responses, is deeply bound up with national sensibilities but has attracted attention for racial exclusivity
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