Lena Ek on cultural sustainability

7 August, 2019

I had the opportunity on 7 August 2019 in Kalmar to talk to Lena Ek, former Swedish Minister of the Environment (2011-2014) and directly involved in the negotiations of the United Nations Agenda 2030 and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). On my question about the prospects for making cultural sustainability more prominent in future global sustainability goals, she pointed out three important issues:

  1. The SDGs focus on the most prioritised issues only, and it is significant already that culture is mentioned twice in the current targets (SDG 4.7 and SDG 11.4).
  2. The SDGs evoke many other treaties and conventions, especially related to human rights. It may be important to relate cultural sustainability to cultural rights.
  3. In the eyes of some nations, cultural issues and potential goals are not always very concrete or considered important for development, so there is room for more clarity on this.

Heritage Futures in Nigeria

27 July, 2019

Cornelius Holtorf presented a lecture (with discussion) entitled “Heritage and the Future” for an audience of almost 50 staff and students at all levels at the Department of Archaeology and Anthropology, University of Ibadan, Nigeria (24 July 2019).

Various activities April – June 2019

1 July, 2019

Cornelius Holtorf och Anders Högberg led a future workshop in Kalmar for cirka 40 civil servants dealing with cultural heritage in southern Sweden (10 April 2019).

Cornelius Holtorf met up in Amsterdam, Netherlands, with Nour Munawar, Ihab Saloul and James Symonds of the University of Amsterdam and Bill Wei of Cultureel Erfgoed to prepare the ICOMOC University Forum on Thinking and Planning the Future in Heritage Management to be held 11-14 June 2019 in Amsterdam (12 April 2019).

Cornelius Holtorf was an invited discussant at a presentation by Mathilda Tham, Sarah Hultén-Cavallius and Åsa Ståhl of the Dept of Design about their Metadesign project BOOST –  Smart Housing Småland, given at Linnaeus University, Kalmar (25 April 2019).

Cornelius Holtorf was invited to contribute to an expert workshop on Cultural Heritage and Change, organised by the Funding bodies Riksbanken Jubileumsfond and Marcus and Amalia Wallenberg Foundation in preparation of an international call for research funding, to be launched later this year (2/3 May 2019).

Cornelius Holtorf took part during April and May 2019 in extended deliberations about the most appropriate response of the International Council of Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS) to the fire at Notre Dame.

Cornelius Holtorf met up with Alexandra Petrakou, University liaison officer at the Municipality of Kalmar, to discuss future collaboration in the context of the Kalmar 2020 initiative (3 June 2019).

Cornelius Holtorf led a half-day future workshop for 12 managers of the Culture and Leisure Department of the Municipality of Kalmar (17 June 2019).

Cornelius Holtorf lectured for staff and students on “Ist ‚Kulturerbe‘ zukunftsfähig? Kritische Thesen zu archäologischem Kulturerbe, kultureller Identität und Begrenzungen unseres Denkens für die Zukunft“ at the Heidelberg Center für Cultural Heritage, University of Heidelberg, Germany (25 June 2019).

Alternative futures in the Lake District

29 June, 2019

Sarah May argues in a new paper on Heritage, endangerment and participation: alternative futures in the Lake District:

“When heritage is framed as inherently threatened, participation in heritage is framed as a battle against those threats. … endangerment domesticates dangerous pasts. However, endangerment also closes down futures by positioning present communities in a constant state of anxiety where the future is only apprehended as a threat to the past. But there are ways to participate in heritage–to enjoy it, create it, sustain it–not linked to endangerment. The practice of fell shepherding described here does not depend on endangerment to create futures but creates a future from patient care in the present.”

Sarah May (2019): Heritage, endangerment and participation: alternative futures in the Lake District, International Journal of Heritage Studies, DOI: 10.1080/13527258.2019.1620827 – available in open access.

UNESCO Chair network meeting

21 June, 2019

Cornelius Holtorf took part in the First International Symposium of UNESCO Chairs in Anticipatory Systems, Futures Studies and Futures Literacy at the University of Trento, Italy (19-20 June 2019).

He presented the work of our UNESCO Chair on Heritage Futures for an audience of circa 60 participants who had come from as far as Malaysia, New Zealand, South Africa and Chile. Among them were six other UNESCO Chairs from Finland, Greece, Italy, Netherlands, UK and Uruguay plus members of their team as well as at least as many aspiring applicants.

The symposium was followed by a separate meeting on 21 June which discussed the prospects of establishing a Global Futures Literacy Network.

Are you curious about “Futures Literacy”? Learn more in this film from Hanse University Groningen!

Thinking and Planning the Future in Heritage Management, Amsterdam 11-14 June 2019

10 June, 2019

Heritage Futures

ICOMOS University Forum organized by the UNESCO Chair on Heritage Futures at Linnaeus University, Kalmar, Sweden and the Amsterdam School for Heritage, Memory and Material Culture, in collaboration with ICOMOS International, ICOMOS Netherlands, and City of Amsterdam, held at Amsterdam, Netherlands, 11-14 June 2019

The meeting aimed at promoting to think and plan the future in heritage management. How do we perceive of the future? Which future do heritage professionals work for? What heritage will be needed in the future (and how do we know)? How can we build capacity in future thinking among heritage professionals worldwide?

The participants included academics and heritage managers, both young and established, from many parts of the world.

Programme of the meeting in Amsterdam 11-14 June 2019







Photo Anneke Dekker (top) and Helena Rydén (bottom)

Cornelius and Toshiyuki Kono

Professor Toshiyuki Kono, chairman of ICOMOS International and Professor Cornelius Holtorf, holder of the UNESCO Chair on Heritage Futures, joining for discussion in Amsterdam.


Now as film: time travel to the future

27 May, 2019

When pupils from Kalmar travelled to the future… Here is the film documenting a collaborative project of Kalmar County Museum and Linnaeus University’s UNESCO Chair on Heritage Futures. (Press “cc” to turn on English subtitles!)

Information and memory for future decision making

24 May, 2019

Our workshop on Information and memory for future decision making – radioactive waste and beyond held 21–23 May 2019 in Stockholm brought together some 60 experts and stakeholders on nuclear waste, other kinds of hazardous waste and cultural heritage. We discussed in lectures, workshops and plenary discussion how best to preserve information and maintain memory over centuries and millennia in the context of sustainable development.

These days were the outcome of a unique collaboration between the Swedish Council for Nuclear Waste, The National Archives of Sweden, and Linnaeus University. Project partners included even representatives of the Swedish Nuclear Fuel and Waste Management Company, the Swedish Radiation Authority, the Swedish Office for Nuclear Waste Review, and the municipalities of Östhammar and Oskarshamn.

The workshop was also the start-up for our new Vinnova project Memory Across Generations. As a concrete outcome of the meeting, a 2-page document  containing “Guiding principles and practical goals…” is now being finalised and will be linked from here soon. Proceedings of the workshop will be available during the autumn 2019 from the site linked to in the first line of this entry.

Workshop: radioactive waste and beyond

17 April, 2019

We are now in the final phase of preparing an ambitious workshop on Information and memory for future decision making – radioactive waste and beyond to be held 21–23 May 2019 in Stockholm. The gathering is for invited participants on preserving information and memory over centuries and millennia in the context of sustainable development and the future human environment.

Notre Dame in flames…

16 April, 2019

From a human perspective, it is understandable that people feel emotional about the building of Notre Dame in flames. Since 1991, Notre Dame has been part of the UNESCO World Heritage site of the Banks of the Seine of Paris. However, as heritage experts we should not become too sentimental about what happened. Our task is to understand historical changes and transformations as they unfold and to manage the implications for the future.

It is quite conceivable that Notre Dame will be even more visited and appreciated in the future, while recovery and restoration and reconstruction work will be conducted over the coming years.

As Medievalist Dorothy Kim at Brandeis University expressed in a recent message, there is also a real possibility that “the far right is already promulgating conspiracy theories that this is basically the work of religious outsiders (i.e. Islamaphobia and Antisemitism) and that the burning of Notre Dame is a sign that western civilization and the values of the Christian West are under attack.” So, let us not commiserate ourselves too much for the loss to Western civilization or Christianity or Medieval Catholicism or French culture.

As Kim argued, the unexpected fire in Notre Dame should be seen as our opportunity to reinvent the church for the future. Let’s make this heritage into a monument of our resilience to overcome challenges together.

Whether we are Parisians or Christians or heritage experts or tourists or other interested audiences from around the world, the church can come to symbolise a shared determination to look forward to where all those valuing the building want to go together. Let us remember that the purpose of the World Heritage programme is first and foremost to contribute to UNESCO’s overarching aim to build peace in the world.