The figure of the hero is a matter of great cultural debate at the present time, in British contexts and beyond. Recent conflicts; natural disasters; ambitious expeditions; Olympic and Paralympic events – all have forged potential hero figures, renewing centuries-old discussions about just who, or what, a hero might be. The Hero Project seeks to draw together academics from a wide variety of disciplines, alongside archivists, curators and librarians, plus colleagues from the commercial and charity sectors. It fosters conversations about hero figures past and present, considering their emergence or creation, their relationship with their fans or ‘worshippers’ in their own communities and/or further afield and the shifting fortunes of their reputations. We ask whether heroes emerge through deeds, character or morality, or whether they are created. We ponder the value of heroes to particular communities in the forging of their group identity. We trace the shaping and maintenance of heroic reputations in texts, art practice, oral culture and curatorship. We seek to ask: who were, or are our heroes, and how/why could or should future heroes be selected or permitted to emerge?

Our project team is drawn from Aberdeen, Birmingham and Durham universities, and we collaborate with the Royal Geographical Society (with IBG) and the Scottish National Portrait Gallery. We are funded by an Arts and Humanities Research Council Developmental Research Grant, and are part of the “Care for the Future” research theme (find out about that theme here). The project runs from 1 August 2015-31 July 2016.

(This blog is maintained by the project team, and reflects our own views and not those of the participating organisations. Photo credits: ‘Amundsen-in-ice’ by Anders Beer Wilse; ‘Malala Yousafzai at Girl Summit 2014’ by Russell Watkins, Department for International Development; ‘Florence Nightingale’ by unknown; ‘David Beckham’ by The Democratic Alliance. Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons. Sourced by Dr. Alistair Brown.)

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