Forthcoming events

15 April, 2021
NEW DATE 3 May 2021, 18:00-19:30 (Central European Time) – Cornelius Holtorf will be in conversation with Nicole Deufel discussing Future Archaeology at Volkshochschule Aalen (via Zoom). The conversation will be in German.

In diesem Gespräch mit Prof. Dr. Cornelius Holtorf geht es um „Zukunftsarchäologie“. Dieser Begriff scheint zunächst ein Widerspruch zu sein, verbindet man Archäologie doch in der Regel mit der Vergangenheit und ihrer Erforschung. Aber gerade diese Expertise der Archäologie, nämlich das Wissen um zeitliche Veränderungen, ist es auch, die sie auf einzigartige Weise dazu befähigt, über die Herausforderungen der Zukunft nachzudenken. Die Zukunft ist ungewiss, und schon heute zeichnen sich vielfältige Herausforderungen ab, vom Klimawandel bis hin zur Überalterung der menschlichen Gesellschaft. Welche Aufgaben die Archäologie in diesem Zusammenhang konkret übernehmen kann, ist deshalb eine wichtige Frage der Zukunftsarchäologie. Dieser wollen wir in diesem Gespräch nachgehen.

More details and registration (free) here.

Cultural heritage and the European Green Deal

15 April, 2021

Cornelius Holtorf was interviewed by Sorina Buzatu for, an independent non-profit media agency promoting European innovation via TV media and the web. Her article is about cultural heritage and sustainability in the context of the European Green Deal, in which the words “heritage”, “art”, “culture” and “landscape” do not appear.

The article, published on 15 April 2021, discusses to what extent cultural heritage challenges or contributes to a sustainable future (read it here). Holtorf is quoted asking 

“What kind of cultural heritage will be needed in the next 20 to 30 years in order to make the life better? What can we do today about the heritage to maximise its benefit for the future? In some cases, that entails preservations, while in others, it demands us to choose some heritage more than others, or to create new heritage over time.” 

International Science Festival Gothenburg

14 April, 2021

We took part with two outreach projects in the 2021 International Science Festival in Gothenburg, one of Europe’s leading popular science events and the only one of its kind in Sweden.

Understanding future recipients of our messages

7 April, 2021

The first regular meeting of the Expert Group on Awareness Preservation, which is part of the Working Party on Information, Data and Knowledge Management at the OECD’s Nuclear Energy Agency, took place 7-8 April 2021.

Its Chair, Martin Kunze, emphasised that the group will continue the previous work of the NEA on Records, Knowledge and Memory but shift the emphasis from designing and transmitting messages on nuclear waste deposits to understanding its future recipients. 

Both Cornelius Holtorf and Anders Högberg contributed with presentations. Cornelius outlined a necessary shift of thinking from preserving objects to anticipating social processes and embracing change, based on current thinking in Heritage Studies. Anders introduced related ideas about futures consciousness and futures literacy, emphasising the need to avoid imposing our own ideas onto the future and to try and accommodate decisions made in future presents.

Various activities January – March 2021

1 April, 2021

Cornelius Holtorf taught 10 students at Linnaeus University, during two 2-hour sessions, about “Global Perspectives on Cultural Policy,” including the role of UNESCO and the significance for cultural heritage of the agenda 2030 and of futures thinking. The students are reading the programme on Cultural Heritage in Present and Future Societies (7 Jan 2021).

Cornelius Holtorf presented a talk entitled “Beyond strategic leadership” in a Programme for Future Research Leaders held at Malmö University (12 January 2021).

Cornelius Holtorf took part in a panel discussion on resilience and vulnerability starting off the International Workshop Theorizing Resilience & Vulnerability in Ancient Studies arranged by RGZM Mainz, Germany (19 January 2021).

Cornelius Holtorf attended the digital Final Conference of the project DUNC – Development of UNESCO Natural and Cultural Assets (26 January 2021)

Cornelius Holtorf and Anders Högberg attended the digital First Plenary of the Working Party on Information, Data and Knowledge Management of the Nuclear Energy Agency, OECD, Paris (26-27 January 2021).

Cornelius Holtorf was interviewed by Britta Rudolf on the topic of heritage futures, with the conversation being recorded for the benefit of the Masters students reading Introduction to Heritage Site Management at BTU Cottbus-Senftenberg, Germany (28 January 2021).

Cornelius Holtorf had an informal meeting with Alison Heritage at the International Centre for the Study of the Preservation and Restoration of Cultural Property (ICCROM) on possible future collaborations regarding foresight and capacity building in heritage futures (29 January 2021).

Cornelius Holtorf had an informal meeting with Yannis Avramidis (Senior Manager, World Monuments Watch) and Jonathan Bell (Vice-President of Programs) of the World Monuments Fund discussing possibilities for future collaborations (29 January 2021).

Cornelius Holtorf participated in a session about the history and contemporary significance of UNESCO World Heritage during the Annual Conference of the Swedish National Heritage Board (3 February 2021).

Cornelius Holtorf was interviewed on Swedish Radio P4 Uppland about future archaeology in relation to the planned final repository of nuclear waste in Sweden (9 February 2021).

Cornelius Holtorf met with Lisa Carlson (World Heritage Coordinator), Max Dager (Head of Culture, Municipality of Karlskrona), Mats Persson and Malin Jogmark (Maritime Museum) concerning a planned application of Naval City of Karlskrona World Heritage Site to the World Monuments Watch scheme (9 February 2021).

Cornelius Holtorf participated in the first meeting of a working group of 17 European experts writing a White Paper on “Cultural Heritage and Climate Change: New challenges and perspectives for research” in a joint initiative of JPI Cultural Heritage and JPI Climate (17 March 2021).

Cornelius Holtorf co-presented with Ma Qingkai, Chen Xian, and Zhang Yu a discussion entitled “Paris, China: Some Thoughts about the Value of Simulated Heritage” for an audience of about 135 attendees of the (digital) conference  Understanding Authenticity of China’s Cultural Heritage organised at the School of Archaeology, University of Oxford (19 March 2021).

Cornelius Holtorf attended sessions of the digital Sustainable Heritage Bidecennial Conference at University College London, focussing on “Heritage risk and resilience” and “Future heritage” respectively (22-25 March 2021). He had collaborated in planning the latter session.

Leila Papoli-Yazdi presented a research seminar on “Secret lives hidden in garbage bags: a short report of a Garbology project in Tehran, Iran” for 14 researchers associated with the Dept of Cultural Sciences at Linnaeus University (23 March 2021).

Cornelius Holtorf participated in a seminar on “The Faro Convention – Background, Content, and the Swedish Position” organised as part of the Annual Meeting of ICOMOS Sweden (25 March 2021).  

Cornelius Holtorf participated as representative of Linnaeus University in the regular meeting of the World Heritage Council for the World Heritage site Agricultural Landscape of Southern Öland (26 March 2021).

Nuclear Sanctuary

30 March, 2021

Today, members of the Chair met with Sam Collins and Sho Murayama who recently completed their Masters Thesis in the Political Architecture: Critical Sustainability Programme at The Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts School of Architectur in Copenhagen.

Collins and Murayama describe their thesis Nuclear Sanctuary as “a pilgrimage through the complex culture of Nuclear France”:

The project looks to re-articulate the nuclear story through architectural narrative, becoming a cognitive tool to speculate on how nuclear culture will be perceived in the future. Reactivating the decomissioned power plant Chooz A to stand as a monumental marker in time, the Nuclear Sanctuary presents a window into the future through the past, situated in the present.

Maybe French nuclear culture in 50 years from now will be perceived predominantly as the foundation of the environmental movement and a powerful inspiration for the arts. Maybe there will be a movement to keep the energy alive…

Colleen Morgan on Prefiguration and Heritage

28 March, 2021
Colleen Morgan has now published a response to a discussion of the concept of prefiguration in relation to contemporary cultural heritage practice to which I had contributed last year.
Great to see when our past work on heritage futures inspires some unusual and beautiful responses that encourage us all to think more and, quite possibly, act better.
From her conclusion:
“There will be Neolithic burial rites, a rally, and a puppet show. … We will cry, we will laugh, and we will demand accountability and change, and the end of Empire.”
Morgan, Colleen. 2021. Save the Date for Future Mourning: Prefiguration and Heritage. Forum Kritische Archäologie 10:1–5.




What is digital sustainability?

25 March, 2021

Monika Stobiecka (Faculty of Liberal Arts, Warsaw University) gave an interesting lecture entitled Digital sustainability: what happens when we digitize everything? It was part of a series of lectures organised to mark 20 years of Sustainable Heritage at UCL.

She asked some pertinent issues linked to the notion of digital sustainability:

  • digitisation is maybe not always worth the money it costs!
  • should we stop mass digitisation and invest in high-quality projects instead?
  • we need to learn to let go of established institutions like traditional museums!
  • lets collaborate more with gamers!

Here is the full abstract of Monika’s talk:

The last few years have shown that in heritage policy all over the world priority has been given to digitization. International, national, and regional authorities and academies generously support researchers and technicians working on digital heritage. Almost everything considered valuable is registered, stored in databases, or presented in museums, and finally, saved for posterity in various digital formats. However, this ubiquitous turn towards the digital that has taken over heritage studies still lacks a proper theoretical and critical framework. Many authors notice this severe theoretical lack, which often leads to techno-fetishism, particularly visible in projects where researchers, following the fast-science track, indiscriminately collect more and more data by applying the latest methods, to create more and more representations, reconstructions, simulations, or even simulacra. All too often, digital heritage is based on a simple problem-solution mechanism, dismissing the ethical implications. It is high time to think about the future of digital heritage and repeat the question posed by Harold Thwaites: what happens when we digitize everything? (Thwaites 2013). Or go further and ask: what are the ethical implications of this mass digitization – will the digital replace the material? In my presentation I will discuss if digital heritage can be sustainable, and if the practice can be slow and thoughtful, instead of fast and managerial. My questions will embrace aspects of digital heritage related to digital materiality, energy use, and accessibility and public use. My speech will be illustrated with the preliminary results of a study on Polish digital and virtual collections. Throughout my talk I will investigate the future of digital heritage. Assuming that we are witnessing digital heritagization, I will ask further about the implications of this preference for the digital for sustainable heritage development.


Thwaites, H. 2013. “Digital Heritage: What Happens When We Digitize Everything?” In Visual Heritage in the Digital Age, edited by E. Chang et al., 327-349. London: Springer- Verlag.

European Cultural Heritage Green Paper

22 March, 2021

Today, I have been attending the launch webinar of the European Cultural Heritage Green Paper with a high-level panel including Mariya Gabriel (European Commissioner for Innovation, Research, Culture, Education and Youth), Teresa Patricio (President of ICOMOS), Hermann Parzinger (President of Europa Nostra), Dace Malbarde (MEP, Vice-Chair of Committee on Culture and Education), Andrew Pots, (Coordinator of the Climate Heritage Network and main author of the Green Paper), and almost 600 attendees. Mariya Gabriel reiterated that culture and heritage are part of “the soul of Europe”.

The paper was initiated because the European Green Deal turned out not to make substantial references to culture or heritage.

My question to the panel was this: 

To what extent is cultural heritage not just an asset for the European Green Deal but might also be a liability? How should cultural heritage policy and management develop to maximise the opportunities and minimise any risks for the future?

This is the sort of question we need to ask as and when we think seriously about heritage futures. Andrew Potts acknowledged the problem in his reply, stating that “culture informs the current unsustainable consumption and production patterns. So culture is a part of the solution and a part of the problem.”

Heritage and the Sustainable Development Goals

17 March, 2021

Now published:

Labadi, Sophia, Francesca Giliberto, Ilaria Rosetti, Linda Shetabi, Ege Yildirim (2021). Heritage and the Sustainable Development Goals: Policy Guidance For Heritage And Development Actors. Paris: ICOMOS.

A remarkable document in many ways! Here is one interesting comment, for example (which may have been inspired by some of my comments on a draft version):

At the International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS), we strongly believe that heritage can play a key role in addressing the SDGs, but more work is needed to understand and address the potentials and challenges that link heritage to each Goal. The Policy Guidance document is the first step in addressing this gap. It illustrates where heritage can make a positive contribution and be leveraged by all actors in the heritage and development fields to improve policy and practice. It also addresses the challenge points where heritage practices might be at odds with sustainable development objectives, with the awareness that more in-depth studies and debates are called for in future outputs of the SDGs Working Group.

More research is needed indeed!