Author Archive

What does the future hold for heritage?

Sunday, March 29th, 2020

Cornelius Holtorf gave a Prezi presentation on “Heritage Futures: What does the future hold for heritage?” for the Global Webinar Series of the ICOMOS Emerging Professionals Working Group (29 March 2020).

The Zoom session reached very quickly the maximum number of 100 participants, with another 134 queuing to come in. Participants joined from all regions of the world, many confined to their homes due to measures to slow down the spread of covid-19.

Among the topics addressed in the lecture and the subsequent discussion were:

  • What does it mean to address Heritage Futures?
  • Is the future relevant to heritage?
  • Is the future knowable at all?
  • What are the needs of future generations?
  • Are we already addressing the future?
  • What is the potential of heritage in a post-corona world?

The presentation concluded by stating that heritage can have a bright future to the extent that it competently contributes to meeting the needs of future societies.

A recording of the entire session is available here.

Archaeology Today

Saturday, March 21st, 2020

Here is something for all of you to enjoy in a dark period:

Archaeology Today. By Cornelius Holtorf (text) and Daniel Lindskog (drawings).

This colouring book illustrates how archaeologists are working today applying new approaches. It was published by the UNESCO Chair on Heritage Futures at Linnaeus University. Thanks to Riksbanken Jubileumsfond for support!

Heritage and COVID-19

Saturday, March 14th, 2020

The people I meet no longer shake hands to greet but they invent or adopt all sorts of new forms of greetings: with elbows, feet or by folding hands in front of their bodies. My colleague Eva Cronquist made me aware that, curiously, these for us unusual gestures make the greeting more intense – and warmer.

We learn from that that in times of crisis it is not difficult for anybody to adapt even some of the most established habits and traditions (our cultural heritage!). And especially: to make such a shift is a gift not a sacrifice.

Welcome to UNESCO Day in Växjö!

Monday, March 9th, 2020

UPDATE 17 March: due to the Covid-19 pandemic we will hold this event during the autumn instead.

Welcome to a UNESCO Day on 1 April 2020 at Linnaeus University in Växjö. On this unique day, the Swedish UNESCO Chairs together with representatives of the Swedish National Commission for UNESCO will report about their current activities and priorities for the future.

The program includes a Welcome by Peter Aronsson after which Lena Sommestad, Chairperson of the Swedish National Commission for UNESCO, and the Swedish UNESCO Chairs will present their current work.

In the afternoon, two open lectures will take place where the Chairs are given the opportunity to meet colleagues and students in their respective fields. See here for the full programm.

The programme is open to staff and students at Linnaeus University. Participation is free of charge, but signing up is compulsory to the programme in the morning. Sign up by March 25!

Preserved for the future

Sunday, March 8th, 2020

Cornelius Holtorf contributed with Martin Kunze to the art project “Ineligible” which is currently displayed as part of the exhibition “Creative (Un)makings: Dispruptions in Art/Archaeology” that is curated by Doug Bailey and Sara Navarro and held at the International Museum of Contemporary Sculpture in Santo Tirso, Portugal (6 March – 14 June 2020). Ineligible removed archaeological artefacts from the context of an excavation in San Francisco, disarticulates and repurposes them as raw materials in order to address contemporary political and social issues.

Holtorf and Kunze´s work is entitled “Preserved for the future”, and it addresses the global politics of loss and preservation. A shoe from San Francisco was burned reducing it to small fragments of minerals. The ceramic tile contains the photograph of a shadow of the show together with some of its tangible remains. A duplicate was deposited in the Memory of Mankind storage facility at Hallstatt in Austria where it may survive for hundreds of thousands of years.

In an ultimate act of preservation, the shoe of one human who lived a century ago has thus become part of the memory of humankind. To allow this prospect of preservation for the future, the shoe was translated into ashes and a shadow of itself. Ironically, this tile may be the only thing to survive from the excavation in San Francisco in the distant future.

So: has the shoe been lost through the process or preserved?

What will future generations make of this and other legacies of our time?


Heritage Futures – the book

Tuesday, March 3rd, 2020

To be published in July 2020:

Heritage Futures Comparative Approaches to Natural and Cultural Heritage Practices. By Rodney Harrison, Caitlin DeSilvey, Cornelius Holtorf, Sharon Macdonald, Nadia Bartolini, Esther Breithoff, Harald Fredheim, Antony Lyons, Sarah May, Jennie Morgan, and Sefryn Penrose. UCL Press 2020.

Preservation of natural and cultural heritage is often said to be something that is done for the future, or on behalf of future generations, but the precise relationship of such practices to the future is rarely reflected upon. Heritage Futures draws on research undertaken over four years by an interdisciplinary, international team of 16 researchers and more than 25 partner organisations to explore the role of heritage and heritage-like practices in building future worlds.

10 years warranty?

Saturday, February 22nd, 2020

Archaeologist Paul Graves-Brown published some interesting thoughts on predicting and periodising the future. Although insurance companies and materials engineers are happy to define distinct periods in the future, historians and archaeologists are not. Isn’t it odd!

Impact of our work on memory across generations

Friday, February 21st, 2020

Our work concerning memory across generations has found its way into the 2020 Report of the Swedish Nuclear Waste Council to the Swedish Government (SOU 2020:9, in Swedish).

The report contains in chapter 7 over several pages a summary of the results of our Workshop “Information and memory for future decision making – radioactive waste and beyond” held in May 2019 in Stockholm. An English translation of the report will be published later this spring.


Critical Perspectives on Cultural Memory and Heritage

Thursday, February 20th, 2020

Cornelius Holtorf was invited to contribute a critical epilogue to a new study on Critical Perspectives on Cultural Memory and Heritage edited by Veysel Apaydin and available in open access. After reading the other contributions he concluded, among others, that

“There is a risk that certain ways of discussing, conceptualising and indeed managing cultural heritage could ultimately cause more harm than benefit for future societies. For that reason it is paramount to think carefully and critically about how what we are doing today could have significant impact on the future.”

Shaping Sustainable Futures through Heritage…

Friday, February 14th, 2020

… was the topic of this years’s Spring Conference of the Nordic Centre of Heritage Learning and Creativity (NCK) held on 12-13 February 2020 in Östersund, Sweden.

The conference brought together more than 60 participants from several countries lively discussing what futures thinking and sustainable development can mean in the context of museums, archives and heritage sites. In his keynote lecture entitled Sustainable Futures for Heritage?, Cornelius Holtorf argued that cultural heritage will have a future to the extent that it can contribute to sustainable societies. But what does that mean?

Staffan Appelgren from the University of Göteborg gave one possible answer when he asked at the end of his lecture on re-use and the circular economy: “why do museums have collections? Why do they not borrow things as needed?” Other unusual ideas were explored in a time travel to the year 2070 that was organised by Kalmar County Museum and concluded the conference. Clearly, with methods developed in reference to the past we can travel to the future too.

For the heritage sector to be able to work towards the Sustainable Development Goals in a concrete way much similar innovation will be needed, both in thinking and in practice. To make a real difference for future generations it will not be good enough for heritage experts to campaign against losing a few coastal heritage sites to rising sea levels…