Research results

An Archaeology for the Future

Sunday, May 31st, 2020

Archaeology is the study of the past in the present. But can it deal with the future too?

  • Which future(s) are archaeologists working for?
  • Which archaeological heritage will benefit future generations most?
  • How can archaeologists build capacity in futures thinking? 

Some thoughts on these issues have now been published by Cornelius Holtorf in Post-Classical Archaeologies vol 10. By reviewing some recent and current projects conducted at Linnaeus University in Sweden he shows that it is possible to engage actively and constructively with the future and consider benefits of archaeology for future societies.

Do we need a new world heritage?

Monday, May 25th, 2020

A contribution by Cornelius Holtorf and Annalisa Bolin for the blog Seeing the Woods of the Rachel Carson Centre has now been published, entitled


We argue that it is not surprising that many have started asking about the legacy that the “corona crisis” of 2020 is going to leave behind for the years and perhaps for decades to come. Seldom have the relations between present and future societies felt more relevant than during the present weeks…



Thursday, April 9th, 2020

Coronakrisen har gjort att många tänker lite mer på framtiden i dessa dagar. Alla våra egna planer har ändrats, många har tappat inkomster, vissa har inget jobb att återvända till, några har förlorat en anhörig eller vän.

Men hur har historien i stort påverkats? Vilka är konsekvenserna för kulturmiljön? Hur spelar Coronakrisen ihop med andra pågående förändringsprocesser så som klimatkrisen, urbanisering och den snabba digitala utvecklingen?

Och vad innebär förändring för ett Unesco världsarv som ska bevaras för framtiden lite extra?

I det här projektet har vi tagit fasta på år 2050 och visualiserat fem olika framtidsbilder som spekulerar hur världsarvet Södra Ölands odlingslandskap skulle kunna se ut då.

Hur kan framtiden se ut för ett odlingslandskap som befinner sig i kontinuerlig förändring? Vilken roll kan världsarvet spela i en framtid som på flera sätt inte liknar vår egen tid?

Öland 2050

Ett samarbete mellan Linnéuniversitetets Unescoprofessur i Heritage Futures och Mörbylånga kommun. En utställning kommer att resa runt Öland.

Projektgrupp: Daniel Lindskog (grafik), Gustav Wollentz (informationshämtning och text), Cornelius Holtorf (ledning)

Tack till Urban Ekstam, Birgitta Eriksson, Susanne Forslund, Roger Gustafsson, Anne Hamrin Simonsson, Niklas Holmgren, Pär Holmgren, Dave Karlsson, Rebecka Le Moine, Emma Rydnér och Ebbe Westergren. 





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).

Access without need to log in here.

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!

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?


Archaeology Today

Thursday, March 5th, 2020

In this colouring book we illustrate how archaeologists are working today applying new approaches. The authors are Cornelius Holtorf (text) and Daniel Lindskog (drawings). Thank you Riksbanken Jubileumsfond for support!

Download the colouring book here.

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.

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.”

Futures of Education and cultural resilience

Tuesday, January 28th, 2020

Among the 50 think pieces in UNESCO’s new volume on the futures of education is a short essay by Cornelius Holtorf on Enhancing cultural resilience by learning to appreciate change and transformation. The volume is part of UNESCO’s new Futures of Education initiative.

In the contribution, Holtorf argues, among others, that shifting the narrative on cultural heritage from one of conservation and loss to a continuous process of change and transformation can build cultural resilience, i.e. the ability of cultural systems to absorb adversity. Cultural heritage in all its rich variety manifests change over time. Learning to understand cultural heritage increasingly in those terms will facilitate our capability of adapting legacies of the past to changing circumstances both today and in the future.

The article and the volume in its entirety are accessible here. A French version is available here. The project is supported by the Swedish government through its development agency SIDA.

Cultural heritage, nuclear waste and the future

Monday, December 16th, 2019

“Whether we are concerned with nuclear waste or cultural heritage, we are in the same business of Heritage Futures… Heritage Futures are concerned with the roles of heritage in managing the relations between present and future societies, e.g. through anticipation and planning.”

From a new paper now available in open access: Holtorf, C. (2019) “Cultural heritage, nuclear waste and the future: what’s in it for us?” In: J. Dekker (ed.) Bewaren of Weggooien? Middleburg: Zeeuwse Ankers and COVRA.

– Note that most of the book is in Dutch but my contribution is in English.