Professor Laurajane Smith

B.A.(hons), PhD Sydney; GradDip. HEd. UNSW.
Head, Centre for Heritage and Museum Studies
ANU College of Arts and Social Sciences
T: 02 612 58162

Areas of expertise

  • Heritage, Archive And Museum Studies 4302

Research interests

Key to Laurajane's interests is the understanding of heritage studies as an area of policy analysis and as a cultural process worthy of critical examination. Her work challenges the idea of heritage as primarily or simply an 'object' or 'site’ and re-theorises heritage as a cultural performance and practice of meaning and memory making. More particularly, her research interests include understanding the way heritage is used as a cultural tool in the process of remembering, forgetting and identity construction; the politics of heritage; the interplay between class and heritage; multiculturalism and heritage representation; community heritage; heritage tourism and heritage public policy and the cultural politics of identity.



Laurajane Smith is professor of Heritage and Museum Studies, and a fellow of the Society for the Academy of the Social Sciences in Australia. She has had a career long interest in the politics of heritage making. She is founder of the Association of Critical Heritage Studies and has been editor of the International Journal of Heritage Studies since 2009. She is co-general editor with Dr Gönül Bozoglu of Routledge’s Key Issues in Cultural Heritage. In 2018, she was awarded a Doctor Honoris Causa for scientific merit, from the University of Antwerp, Belgium, and in 2021 she was the recipient of the European Archaeology Association Heritage Prize. She is currently one of ten CNRS Fellow-ambassadors (2023-5).

Prior to arriving at the ANU in 2010, she held the position of Reader in heritage studies at the University of York, UK, where she directed the MA in Cultural Heritage Management for nine years. Originally from Sydney, she taught Indigenous Studies at the University of New South Wales (1995-2000), and heritage and archaeology at Charles Sturt University (1990-1995). She also worked as a heritage consultant in south-eastern Australia during the 1980s.

Her key books include Uses of Heritage (2006) and Emotional Heritage (2021) and the edited volumes Intangible Heritage (2009) and Safeguarding Intangible Heritage (2019) both with Natsuko Akagawa, Emotion, Affective Practices, and the Past in the Present (2018) with Margaret Wetherell and Gary Campbell, Heritage, Labour and the Working Class (2011) with Paul A. Shackel and Gary Campbell, and Representing Enslavement and Abolition in Museums: Ambiguous engagements (2011) with Geoff Cubitt, Ross Wilson and Kalliopi Fouseki and the forthcomming (2024) The Routledge International Handbook of Heritage and Politics with Gönül Bozoglu, Gary Campbell and Christopher Whitehead.

Researcher's projects

  • Heritage and Reconciliation (DP200102850, CI1) 2020-2023

Team: Cressida Fforde, Laurajane Smith, Daryle Rigney, Peter Stone, Steve Hemming, Paul Tapsell, Greg Lehman, Lia Kent, Merata Kawharu.

This project will re-conceptualise heritage from a standpoint of reconciliation. In doing so, it will generate new understandings about how heritage and its management can contribute to reconciliation processes. The project will combine Aboriginal, Maori and Western intellectual traditions in order to advance theoretical understandings of heritage and to examine its reconstructive power. It will produce models for practical implementation, including new conservation and management protocols. The project's investigation of a new approach to heritage has the potential for profound social benefit.


  • Cultural heritage and the mediation of identity, memory and historical narratives (ARC Future Fellowship 2010-2014).

The aim of this work was to document the way museum exhibitions and heritage sites are used to construct and negotiate social and cultural values and meanings. It is accepted that museum and heritage site audiences are not simply passive receptors of the curator's or interpreter's messages, but how audiences actually engage with exhibitions and heritages and what they do with the messages they take away is neither documented or understood. By charting and comparing the way heritage is used by heritage professionals, community groups and audiences in Australia, USA and England, the project will reveal the political, cultural and social 'work' that heritage does in society. Key publication: Smith, L. 2021, Emotional Heritage: Visitor Engagement at Museums and Heritage Sites, London: Routledge.


  • 1807 Commemorated 2007-9 (AHRC Knowledge Transfer Fellowship, UK).

The central aim of the 1807 Commemorated project was to both map and analyse the responses of museums and their audiences to the 2007 bicentenary of the abolition of the slave trade act of 1807. Key publications: Smith, L. 2010 ‘Man’s inhumanity to man’ and other platitudes of avoidance and misrecognition: an analysis of visitor responses to exhibitions marking the 1807 bicentenary, Museum and Society, 8(3): 193-214 AND Smith, L., G. Cubitt, R. Wilson and K. Fouseki (eds) 2011. Representing Enslavement and Abolition in Museums: Ambiguous engagements. New York: Routledge. 


  • Heritage and memory in Castleford, West Yorkshire (British Academy funded).

This project documented the ways in which collective memories of work and place were renegotiated using discourses of 'heritage' in the context of deindustrialization and community regeneration. For more information about Castleford heritage, see Castleford Heritage Trust web site. Key publications: Smith, L. 2006 Uses of Heritage. London: Routledge. AND Smith, L., P.A. Shackel and G. Campbell (eds) 2011 Heritage, Labour and the Working Class, London: Routledge.

Current student projects

Dowley, Sharon – Antiquities trade, Cambodia.

Jiang, Yicheng – Digitalized heritage, national image, and visitors’ engagement: comparing official and visitors’ heritage discourses in China and Australia in the digital age.

Kalms, Bryan – Engaged visitors: The visitor experience in community-based museums and galleries

Leighton, Jaye – the concept of time in museology, Collaborative Doctoral Scholarship and Program with the National Museum of Australia.

Li, Yinong – Industrial heritage, nostalgia and identity

Li, Zhuoting – Australian museums and Chinese migrants

Lin, Yu Ting – The politics of Indigenous heritage in Taiwan.

Nevalainen, Alycia – The 1839 Murdering Gully Massacre.

Viray, Bryan – Commemoration as Intangible Heritage: Performing Collective Memories of the Fil-Am War, Philippines.



Past student projects

2024 Villarroel Guerra, Nicolás – Memories of the Dictatorship from Chilean Exiles in Australia: Affect and Positionality in a Complex Mnemonic Field.

2021 Xie, Jieyi – “One Belt, One Road”: Old Silk Road World Heritage listing and its role in China’s economic and political diplomacy.

2020 Armstrong, Laura – Ms Memorial Maker: How female memorial makers have engaged with the dominant narrative of war in Australia's war memorial landscape. 

2020 Wensing, Emma – Crafty Commemoration: Vernacular responses to the Centenary of World War One.

2020 Menzies, Isa – Horses for Discourses: A critical examination of the horse in Australian culture.

2020 Marshall, Melissa - Rock Art Conservation and Management: 21st Century perspectives from northern Australia (chair of panel).

2018 Dudley, Lachlan – Mental Health in Museums: Exploring the reactions of visitors and community groups to mental health exhibitions.

2017 Coghlan, Rachael – The Participatory museum: Power of One exhibition Museum of Australian Democracy.

2016 Zhang, Rouran – 'Value in Change': What do World Heritage Nominations Bring to Chinese World Heritage Sites?

2015 Cut Dewi – Iconic Architectural Heritage in Banda Aceh: Remembering and conservation in post-disaster contexts.

2011 Saengphueng, Sasitsaya – Managing religious heritage: competing discourses of heritage and conflicts in cultural heritage management a case study of Lamphun Northern Thailand (York)

2008 Watson, Steve – Church Tourism: Representation and Cultural Practice (York).

2007 Waterton, Emma – Rhetoric and ‘Reality’: Politics, policy and the discourses of heritage in England (York).

2005 Grenville, Jane – Heritage values and the archaeology of buildings. (By publication, York).



Projects and Grants

Grants information is drawn from ARIES. To add or update Projects or Grants information please contact your College Research Office.

Return to top

Updated:  24 June 2024 / Responsible Officer:  Director (Research Services Division) / Page Contact:  Researchers