History v Heritage

Now the oldest building in central Perth, the Old Courthouse was designed by Henry Reveley, the colony’s first Civil Engineer, and completed in 1837.

The past is all around us.

Everywhere has a history and everywhere has a heritage. Even in fairly new towns and cities like those in Western Australia, we live our lives against a rich backdrop formed by historic buildings, landscapes and other physical survivals from our past.

For most people the word ‘heritage’ makes them think of old churches and castles in Europe or historic Perth buildings such as the Barracks Arch or His Majesty’s Theatre.

 These images, along with family heirlooms such as furniture, trinkets, photographs, personal letters and documents, combine to give each of us a personal ‘heritage’ which is loved, appreciated and often shared with others.

 Communities too have a collective heritage which can include buildings, parks, farms, landscapes, archives and collections of objects gathered by citizens. These all combine to give a unique cultural identity to the people who live in a particular area.

 Because they clearly define the skyline of Perth and give it a unique silhouette, buildings such as the Bankwest Tower and St George’s Tower, although comparatively new, along with modern architectural icons such as the Bell Tower, have already become part of Perth’s heritage.


 So what is the difference between ‘history’ and ‘heritage’?


The word ‘heritage’ comes from an old French word meaning ‘something that is passed down from previous generations; a tradition’. It was originally taken to mean property that was handed down by parents to their children, but in more recent times has taken on a much broader definition:

 Those things from the past which are valued enough today to save for future generations

 “Everywhere has a history and everywhere has a heritage”


The word ‘history’ comes from the Latin word ‘historia’, which means ‘inquiry’, or ‘knowledge gained by investigation’. So ‘history’ is:

‘The discovery, collection, organisation and presentation of information about past of people, places and events‘.