Posts Tagged ‘heritage futures’

Re-imagining heritage

Friday, November 20th, 2020

Cornelius Holtorf presented a lecture on “Heritage Futures and Re-Imagining Heritage” for an audience of 70 attending the Research Forum at the Department of Archaeology, University of York, UK.

Using the example of UNESCO World Heritage and global conflicts during the 20th and 21st centuries, he argued that addressing ‘heritage futures’ means to be able to re-imagine heritage – not the least to create peace or other benefits for future generations.

Post-corona archaeology

Friday, November 13th, 2020

My recent Keynote “Post-Corona Archaeology: Creating a New Normal?” at the 2020 EAA Annual Meeting’s Opening Ceremony is now available online in written form in the new issue 66 of The European Archaeologist.

I propose three lessons for post-corona archaeology:

  1. Let’s take the future seriously and do our best to ensure that archaeology actually contributes to sustainable development that will benefit future generations in concrete ways.
  2. Let’s go beyond the notion of cultural diversity and focus on what people shared and indeed share, promoting trust, solidarity and collaboration between human beings on this planet.
  3. Let’s realise more often the value of culture, cultural heritage and archaeological practice to be inclusive and bring people together, promoting peace among humans both in society and between societies.

The recorded presentation is available on youtube (starts at 48:30)

Annual Report 2019-2020

Tuesday, October 27th, 2020

The Progress Report of the UNESCO Chair on Heritage Futures for the year 2019-2020 is now available online!

Download here (pdf)

or click on the image to get a quick view


Managing Heritage in Times of Crisis

Saturday, October 17th, 2020

The ICOMOS 6ISCs Joint Meeting “Advancing Risk Management for the Shared Future” was held virtually on 17 October 2020, assembling ca 100 participants from around the world, with more being able to watch the recording afterwards. The aim of the meeting was to develop risk management for cultural heritage.

Cornelius Holtorf contributed with a paper on “The Significance of Managing Heritage Processes in Times of Crisis” in which he argued that risk management strategies should give more attention to managing processes and practices of heritage.

The paper is available as an oral presentation and in written form as part of the meeting’s proceedings.

Heritage Futures – the book

Friday, July 31st, 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. The volume Heritage Futures draws on research undertaken over four years (2015-2019) 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.

This large and collaborative project (directed by Rodney Harrison) lies behind our UNESCO Chair. The main results are presented in this book, which is available both in print and in free open access.

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, with contributions by Gustav Wollentz and Anders Högberg.

568 pages, 188 colour illustrations

Open access (pdf) free | 978-1-78735-600-9
Paperback £35.00 | 978-1-78735-601-6
Hardback £50.00 | 978-1-78735-602-3

28 July 2020,

A Star Trek interpretation of the Future

Wednesday, June 10th, 2020

A guest blog by Jesper de Raad:

Ever since I attended the Heritage Futures workshop ‘Thinking and Planning the Future in Heritage Management’ in Amsterdam in 2019 I regularly see examples of interesting ways on how we (currently) perceive the future.

A recent example is a ten second frame in Star Trek – Discovery. In the episode Such Sweet Sorrow: Part 2 we can spot the iconic Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, a very recognisable piece of our collective cultural heritage. In this particular picture, we can see how the present looks at the future. The Golden Gate Bridge, as cultural heritage, is still there but there is no need for automobiles as people can fly around in space ships. People are still dependable on solar energy though, which is produced by the panels on the bridge as depicted in this scene.

This is a way of thinking about the future which at the same time is very tied and bound to the present. We think with our current knowledge and mindset. We are only able to perceive the future through the present!

Jesper de Raad, contact:

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.

Coronavirus and the changing practices of memory in Rwanda

Wednesday, April 15th, 2020

Every April, Rwanda observes the official commemoration of the Genocide Against the Tutsi, which cost the lives of hundreds of thousands of Rwandans in 1994. People gather in large groups to remember the victims, pay respects, and mourn together; wreaths are laid at mass graves and the flame of remembrance is lit at Kigali Genocide Memorial in the capital.

This year, coronavirus hit Rwanda only weeks before the season of Kwibuka (“to remember”). Rwanda has witnessed enormous change and development since 1994, but it remains relatively impoverished, and while most Rwandans are covered through a system of universal healthcare, a coronavirus-induced spike could—as in most countries—quickly overwhelm the country’s healthcare capacity. The government responded swiftly to flatten the curve, closing Rwanda’s borders and instituting a nationwide lockdown, complete with provision of food and essentials to some of Rwanda’s most vulnerable.

For Rwandans, as for much of the world, this spring brings immense changes to everyday life. But it also changed Kwibuka, pressuring organizers to find ways of reconciling the mandate to remember—a mandate fulfilled every April through mass commemoration and public participation—with the imperative to reduce virus transmission.

Kwibuka not only provides space for memory, but also ensures that this memory is passed on to younger generations—an urgent need in Rwanda, where a majority of citizens was born after the genocide. This desire to educate has been a driver of the growth of Kwibuka into a major national event, shaping commemoration in the country. Rwanda’s lockdown has forced changes in these practices, potentially endangering the ability to maintain collective memory into the future, as well as posing obstacles to meeting the needs of survivors and commemorators today.

President Kagame acknowledged the challenge in his Kwibuka address to the nation: “This year’s commemoration for survivors and families and for the country is hard because we cannot be together physically to comfort one another,” he said. “It is not an easy thing to do, Rwandans are used to coming together with solidarity and collective strength.” But, he added, “The current unusual circumstances will not prevent us from fulfilling our obligation to commemorate this solemn anniversary, honor those we lost and console survivors.”

There are resonances between April 1994, when Rwandans hid in their homes, and April 2020, under a national lockdown order. “It is April again, and we are on lock-down but this time not for being killed!” writes genocide survivor and author Claver Irakoze. “This time we actually feel safe to be locked down. We feel protected, not ambushed or surrounded.” Kwibuka has gone on, although the photos from this year’s ceremonies look very different. The President and First Lady light the flame at the Kigali memorial alone; high-ranking government officials lay wreaths one at a time, while the Rwandan Army Band performs, each member seated two meters apart from the next.

The changes in Kwibuka are difficult, as Nelson Gashagaza and Samantha Teta acknowledge. “Kwibuka26 is going to be exceptionally hard for survivors who will not be able to visit their beloved, lay down flowers on grave or water-bodies or meet in one place,” they write. New ways must be found to commemorate, especially online. These are especially important, Gashagaza and Teta point out, for survivors, who can find the anniversary of the genocide traumatic. “The best we can do for now is not allow survivors to experience the worst part of holding the memories: the loneliness of it,” they say. Being unable to visit shared spaces for commemoration is a loss, but not one that requires survivors, or any Rwandan, to go through Kwibuka alone. “Just because we can’t convene in lieux de mémoire,” Gashagaza and Teta say, “doesn’t mean we can’t create milieux de memoire—an environment of remembrance” online, using the digital platforms that are helping Rwandans connect during lockdown to facilitate communal gathering and support for survivors.

In Kagame’s speech, the Rwandan New Times reports, the president “highlighted that historical lessons have taught Rwandans the importance of working together to build a better future for all Rwandans”. Rwanda’s post-genocide development has been built, in part, on the pursuit of self-reliance, and the attempt to solve Rwandan problems with “homegrown solutions”. Lessons from Rwanda’s past are helping it manage the challenges of the present in contexts as different as the pursuit of development and mitigating coronavirus’s impact on the most difficult, important season of the year.

For Kwibuka26, Rwandans are helping to ensure their collective survival through finding new ways to be together while having to be apart. Although it is easy to think of memory as past-oriented and static, in fact the many ways humans remember—including Kwibuka’s commemorations—are dynamic. They respond not only to contemporary conditions, but also to what is anticipated that the future will need, as in Rwanda’s efforts to educate younger generations through collective commemoration. Coronavirus has prompted changes in memory practices, opening up new possibilities for the coming years. In Kwibuka27 and beyond, perhaps some of these new milieux de mémoire, and other solutions Rwandans develop, will persist as part of the changing landscape of commemoration.

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. A look back at the event is available on the ICOMOS site.