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.

Heritage, nuclear waste & the future…

13 April, 2019

Cornelius Holtorf gave a keynote lecture on the topic “Cultural heritage, nuclear waste and the future: what’s in it for us?” for more than 50 participants attending a symposium on “Bewaren of weggooien?” [To keep or to let go?], held by Zeeuwse Ankers at COVRA near Middelburg, Netherlands (13 April 2019). A report about the day is now available here (in Dutch) and here (in English).

In the lecture he argued that many people might like to preserve precious cultural heritage for the benefit of future generations but are more than willing to let go of our present abundance of nuclear waste with its inherent risks to human health. But we may just as well look at this the other way around. Cultural heritage is not scarce and poses many risks to human wellbeing, as it has often been playing a significant role in intensifying bloody cultural conflicts. Nuclear waste, on the other hand, may very well emerge as a precious resource, e.g. when it helps future generations to learn about the history of nuclear power and the emergence and successes of the environmental movement. In the presentation, he also give concrete examples for mutual benefits to be gained from both sectors collaborating and discussed the significance of such collaboration for reaching sustainable development goals in the future.


Att resa till framtiden

8 April, 2019

Ann Norlins rapport om Kalmar läns museums första framtidsresor är nu klart och tillgänglig för alla. Framtidsresorna genomfördes på uppdrag av Unescoprofessuren i slutet av 2018. Filmen finns att se här


Preserving the past, shaping the future

4 April, 2019

The Arts and Humanities Research Council in the UK published a feature about the exhibition in Manchester deriving from the Heritage Futures project that recently ended. The main message of the project is this:

We can’t be certain what the future will be like, but … we can at least try to ensure that the decisions we make today help provide people with the things they might need and want in the future

The exhibition and an associated Heritage Futures Studio will run at Manchester Museum until 2021. Go and visit!

Various activities January – March 2019

31 March, 2019

Anders Högberg and Cornelius Holtorf wrote the curriculum for a new course at Linnaeus University entitled “Heritage, the future, and how to create a more sustainable society, 7.5 credits”. The course is designed for students at advanced level and addresses the following issues: How are heritage and future­-thinking connected with each other? What does it mean to preserve heritage for the benefit of future generations? How can we plan for the future in present­-day heritage management? How might future society be improved through heritage and become more sustainable? It is not clear when the course will be offered to students for the first time.

Cornelius Holtorf met with Professor Riel Miller, in charge of the UNESCO Futures literacy programme, to discuss future collaboration, Paris (24 January 2019)

Cornelius Holtorf visited the Swedish Delegation to UNESCO and OECD in Paris and talked about future plans and activities with Sweden’s Deputy Permanent Delegate to UNESCO and OECD, Ulrika Ferenius (25 January 2019)

Cornelius Holtorf presented a lecture entitled “Archäologie als Zeitreise und die Zukunft der Vergangenheit” for an audience of about 40 students (at all levels) and their academic teachers in a range of academic disciplines at the Altertumswissenschaftliches Kolloquium, University of Augsburg, Germany (29 January 2019).

Cornelius Holtorf held a discussion seminar about the future of heritage and academic research on archaeological heritage with 12 students working on their BA, MA and PhD dissertations in Classical Archaeology at University of Augsburg, Germany (30 January 2019).

Cornelius Holtorf discussed with Professor Toshiyuko Kono, President of ICOMOS International, up-coming and future collaborations in the context of the ICOMOS University Forum initiative (31 January 2019).

Cornelius Holtorf held a lecture on the UNESCO World Heritage Programme for ca. 10 undergraduate students as part of a course on “Archaeology and communication”, Linnaeus University, Kalmar (1 February 2019).

Cornelius Holtorf participated with a presentation on “Die Archäologie der Zukunft” (The Archaeology of the Future”) at an Interdisciplinary Roundtable on research perspectives of the archaeology of recent and modern periods organised by the German funding body DFG in Berlin (20 February 2019)

Cornelius Holtorf presented a lecture on the topic “Ist ‚Kulturerbe‘ zukunftsfähig? Kritische Thesen zu archäologischem Kulturerbe, kultureller Identität und Begrenzungen unseres Denkens für die Zukunft“ for some 25 staff and students of all levels at Institut für Vorderasiatische Archäologie und Forum Kritische Archäologie, FU Berlin, Germany (21 February 2019)

Cornelius Holtorf submitted feedback on the Zero Draft of the ICOMOS Climate Change and Heritage Working Group’sOutline of Climate Change and Cultural Heritage (23 February 2019)

Cornelius Holtorf discussed “The Archaeology of the Future” with a group of 12 undergraduate students reading the degree programme Design + Change, taking the course “Design processes and methods: time”, Linnaeus University, Campus Växjö, Sweden (25 February 2019)

Cornelius Holtorf presented on “World heritage and the future” for the World Heritage Council of the Agricultural Landscape of Southern Öland, Mörbylånga, Sweden (1 Mar 2019)

Cornelius Holtorf took part (via online link) in a meeting with the Scientific Council of the International Council of Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS) regarding the future organisation of ICOMOS University Forum workshops (8 March 2019).

Cornelius Holtorf led an 3hr-Advanced Future Workshop with 8 members of the Unique Kalmar Öland project group developing cultural heritage in our region in Sweden (19 March 2019).

Cornelius Holtorf presented on “Heritage Futures – so förbereder vi oss inför framtiden” at a conference for professionals on Kulturmiljö i samhällsplaneringen in Stockholm, Sweden (27 March 2019)

Memory across generations

28 March, 2019

Vinnova, Sweden’s Innovation Agency, approved our project on Memory Across Generations in its Challenge-Driven Innovation Programme.

Over the next 10 months, we will in our project consortium advance work on the insight that managing hazardous waste in the long term can benefit from relevant expertise in the cultural heritage sector. We will also prepare an application for a more extensive project in the future.

Over the course of the entire project we envisage for the future we hope to

  • establish a common platform and ways of collaborating across different sectors and disciplines, both nationally and internationally, involving all major stakeholders,
  • test effective ways of ‘knowledge exchange’ between relevant collaborators in the area of thinking and planning for the future,
  • develop cultural processes and strategies that can contribute to achieving long-term memory,
  • propose suggestions for policy and legislation.

Reconstructions as tools of future-making

11 March, 2019

The papers in the first published volume of ICOMOS University Forum derive from the pilot ICOMOS University Forum Workshop “A contemporary provocation: reconstructions as tools of future-making” held 13–15 March 2017 at ICOMOS International Headquarters in Paris, France.

The aim of the meeting was to stimulate dialogues between academics at Universities and heritage practitioners from around the world. Now the dialogues can continue with the published papers as a starting point!

This first volume was edited by Cornelius Holtorf (Sweden), Loughlin Kealy (Ireland) and Toshiyuki Kono (Japan). It contains a paper by Cornelius Holtorf on Conservation and heritage as future-making.

The future of cultural heritage in Europe

9 March, 2019

2018 was the European Year of Cultural Heritage (EYCH). Given its slogan “Our heritage: where the past meets the future” Anders Högberg and I argued last February that the cultural heritage sector is badly prepared for the future and should start assessing the needs for heritage of the future and develop strategies for meeting them.

Now, one year later, we can read in Culture Action Europe’s principles and actions for a forward-looking legacy of the European Year of Cultural Heritage that among the gaps that have been identified during the EYCH is

a need for research on the future of cultural heritage in order to bridge traditional and contemporary perspectives of cultural heritage and anticipate challenges and needs.


Future archaeologists unite!

25 February, 2019

Last week Cornelius Holtorf met up with some fellow future archaeologists from the art project “Centre for Documentation of the Future” in Berlin!

Looking back at a future vision of Hamburg (part of the Walhalla II project):


Another Heritage Futures Blog…

11 February, 2019

We just discovered that there is a blog called “Heritage Futures” run by Ian Baxter and David Gill. They seem to focus on a wide range of heritage management issues, often to do with tourism issues. Take a look!