UNESCO

Chair on Heritage Futures

The Future of the Planet of the Apes

2024-07-13

In Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes, the latest movie of the long-standing Planet of the Apes series, the future is battled out with strong references to the past. Whereas Noa and his gang fight for survival of their clan and the true inheritance of Caesar of the previous trilogy, symbolised by a portable amulet (shown in the poster below), the opponent is an evil tyrannt named Proximus who is extensively using the past to forge a future.

Proximus is drawing on preserved books of the 20th century containing knowledge about Roman history and culture. He is actively seeking to build his rule on the heritage of human (i.e. pre-ape) cultural and technical evolution. Just like the Roman Empire ultimately fell, Proximate and his future fall too, or so it seems at the end of the film (evidently to be continued…).

Both intangible and tangible cultural heritage are used extensively in this film. Whereas the living (or indeed forgotten) heritage of the chimpanzees’ clan matches current interest in indigenous cultures, the mobilization of Classical Roman culture by the tyrannt Proximus is more surprising. Does it represent the transformation in the US in recent years of the ancient Romans and Greeks from the originators of European civilisation to the first racists and colonisers putting Europe and the West on the wrong path from the start?

No doubt, we will learn more about this question — and about the signicificance of the distant past for future-making — in the next episode(s) of the Planet of the Apes series. A key role will doubtless also be played by the remaining humans and by the Orang-utan scholar Raka who makes an appearence as the last member of the Order of Caesar carrying on with the task of preserving a library of the 20th century past…

Various activities April – June 2024

2024-06-30

Anders Högberg and Cornelius Holtorf taught a course entitled “Futures literacy for humanities research (4.5 hec)” for a group of PhD students in Global Humanities at Linnaeus University. The course provided the participating students with basic skills in analysing and understanding relationships between present and future societies in global perspectives and related to their own research (April-May 2024).

Anders Högberg was invited by Trelleborg Museums to talk about heritage and futures making processes. He met the entire staff and the new head of Trelleborg’s leisure and cultural administration (11 April).

Anders Högberg participated in the fourth plenary meeting of the Expert Group on Awareness Preservation after Repository Closure (EGAP) organised by the Nuclear Energy Agency (NEA) Radioactive Waste Management Committee. At the meeting, he presented on Futures Literacy and Heritage Processes. The meeting was held at the Federal Office for the Safety of Nuclear Waste Management (BASE) in Berlin (17-19 April 2024).

Cornelius Holtorf attended a lecture by Ele Carpenter (Umeå University, Sweden) entitled “Curating Nuclear Futures: Decolonising the Nuclear Anthropocene”, broadcast from the EU Joint Research Centre in Ispra, Italy (29 April 2024).

Cornelius Holtorf attended a lecture by Jun Mizukawa (Lake Forest College, USA) entitled “Upending 3.11 memorialization and monumentalization” discussing memorialization strategies of the 2011 East Japan disaster, arranged by Kathryn E. Goldfarb at the University of Colorado at Boulder (29 April 2024).

Cornelius Holtorf had an informal meeting with Benjamin Schraven, author of “Klimamigration” (2023), on the topic of culture and heritage in relation to “non-economic loss and damage”, “place attachment”, “immobility”, and “relocation/displacement” (7 May 2024).

Cornelius Holtorf gave a seminar on “Heritage Futures” for 12 students taking the MA course on Humanistic Theories in Materiality at the Saxo Institute, University of Copenhagen (10 May 2024).

Cornelius Holtorf presented a lecture on “Excavating the Future: From Recovery to Regeneration” for cirka 20 students and researchers at the Saxo Institute, University of Copenhagen, Denmark (10 May 2024).

Cornelius Holtorf attended a global UNESCO Chair Seminar on the planned UN Pact for the Future dedicated to the theme “Towards a Pact for the Future” (16 May 2024). Among others, various initiatives of UNESCO for building a culture of peace were emphasised.

On 16 May Anders Högberg and Ulrika Söderström organized the session “Heritage processes, urban transformation and sustainable futures making” at the conference Urban Transformations and Urban Histories at Malmö University, Sweden. https://sv-se.eu.invajo.com/event/fakultetkulturochsamhalle/stadensomvandlingarochurbanahistorierurbantransformationsandurbanhistories

Cornelius Holtorf presented an invited keynote lecture on “why culture and cultural heritage must serve peace instead of war, especially in times of crisis” for more than 50 participants at the Kalmar County Regional Conference on Cultural Policy held in Gamleby, Sweden (23 May 2024).

Anders Högberg, Cornelius Holtorf, and Gustav Wollentz contributed to a panel discussion co-organized by Cornelius Holtorf and Alison Heritage (ICCROM) on “Addressing the Future in the Social and Human Sciences” at the conference The Discovery of the Future in the Social and Human Sciences held at the University of Trento, Italy (6 June 2024).

Cornelius Holtorf held an invited keynote lecture entitled “Towards an Archaeology of the Future—can futures and foresight be central to archaeology?” in front of 60+ participants in the conference The Discovery of the Future in the Social and Human Sciences held at the University of Trento, Italy (7 June 2024). The conference was organised by Roberto Poli, UNESCO Chair on Anticipatory Systems and attended by at least six additional UNESCO Chairs from Cyprus, Italy, Mexico, Netherlands, UK, and South Africa.

Cornelius Holtorf participated in the first Heritage Dialogues’ Webinar organised by the European Heritage Hub, themed ‘Cultural Heritage for an Inclusive and Democratic Europe’ and featuring among others Normunds Popens, Deputy Director-General, DG EAC, European Commission, Irina Bokova, Chair of the Democracy and Culture Foundation, and former Director-General of UNESCO, and Carlos Moedas, Mayor of Lisbon, who said that “the cultural heritage of the past has to be about the future” (11 June 2024).

Cornelius Holtorf presented the work of the UNESCO Chair on Heritage Futures for the Board of the Faculty of Arts and Humanities at Linnaeus University, Kalmar, Sweden (11 June 2024).

Cornelius Holtorf contributed to the UN Stakeholder Briefing on the Intergovernmental Process for the Declaration on Future Generations, facilitated by the Ambassadors to the UN of Jamaica and the Netherlands (12 June 2024). He agreed twith the need to make the Commitments more future-oriented and therefore suggested to start §21 with the phrase: “acknowledging the significance of cultural heritage for meeting the needs of future generations, e.g. by preserving cultural diversity, promoting global heritage, and fostering intercultural dialogue to ensure mutual understanding, trust and solidarity.”

Cornelius Holtorf took part in meetings of the Pledge Network chaired by Sophie Howe, former Future Generations Commissioner for Wales, 2016-2023, promoting strong references to future generations and their interests in the UN Summit of the Futures this September in New York (16 May 2024, 13 June 2024, 11 July 2024).

Cornelius Holtorf submitted feedback on the drafted Pact for the Future and Declaration on Future Generations to the Swedish Department of Foreign Affairs and the Permanent Mission of Sweden to the UN (14 June 2024).

Cornelius Holtorf had a meeting with Emmanuelle Robert, Unit for Cultural Policy and Intercultural Dialogue, UNESCO, on current issues concerning the role of culture in the Pact of the Future to be finalised at the UN Summit of the Future in New York in September 2024 (21 June 2024).

Cornelius Holtorf met informally with Marie-Laure Lavenir, Director General of the International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS), and Toshi Kono, former President of ICOMOS, in Paris (21 June 2024).

Cornelius Holtorf presented an invited World Archaeology Seminar on “Future Archaeology” for more than 30 participants at the Austrian Archaeological Institute, Vienna, Austria (26 June 2024).

Intangible Cultural Heritage and Climate Change

2024-06-19

I have been invited by UNESCO to contribute to a meeting of nearly 40 international experts and UNESCO staff on Safeguarding intangible cultural and climate change, held on 19-20 June 2024 at UNESCO in Paris.

Among the attendents I was presenting for were Fumiko Ohinata, Secretary of the UNESCO 2003 Convention, Susanne Schnüttgen, Chief of Unit for Capacity Building and Heritage Policy, Culture Sector, UNESCO, and two more UNESCO Chairs: Heba Aziz, UNESCO Chairholder for World Heritage and Sustainable Tourism Management in the Arab region at the German University of Technology in Oman—GUtech, and Susan Keitumetse, UNESCO Chairholder for African Heritage Studies and Sustainable Development, University of Botswana.

Venice Charter Reframed

2024-05-28

Cornelius Holtorf presented a talk entitled “The Climate Heritage Paradox — considering regeneration” for ca. 30 international heritage experts at the conference Venice Charter [Re-] framed 1964-2024: New Heritage Challenges held at the Faculty of Arts and Humanities, University of Lisbon, in co-operation with ICOMOS Portugal, in Lisbon, Portugal (28 May 2024).

In my paper I argued for a shift in the approach to cultural heritage management. Moving beyond the Venice Charter’s focus on conservation as preservation of historical evidence, I advocate for a perspective of regeneration. This involves viewing cultural heritage not as static artifacts but as dynamic, ever-changing entities akin to ecosystems. By embracing change and transformation, cultural heritage can contribute to human and non-human well-being, resilience, and sustainability in the face of contemporary challenges like the climate crisis. (summary provided by Chat GPT)

In relation to the main theme of the conference addressing 60 years since the Venice Charter, it seems to me that what has changed since 1964 may be summarised like that:

The Venice Charter focuses a great deal on establishing fairly restrictive policy in the name of preserving ancient fabric as a living and authentic witness of the past. But today many experts are more interested in what cultural heritage does (or can do) for people and society, not the least in the light of challenges like those caused by climate change.

Do we need a revised policy maximizing the benefits of heritage for people?

Col-Futures

2024-05-03

Today and tomorrow, The UNESCO Chair on Heritage Futures has been co-hosting Bodhisattva Chattopadhyay of the Co-Futures project at the University of Oslo. They are the hub of a number of interrelated and well-funded projects.

CoFUTURES is an international group working on Global Futures with its sphere of activities scattered across various communities, research groups and networks around the world. Among others, they work on speculative fiction, co-futures literacy, and contemporary futurism. An insipiring alternative to established approaches in foresight and Futures Studies that predominate in the corporate and policy world.

Embracing Change

2024-04-18

I presented a keynote lecture entitled “Embracing Change: Cultural Heritage and Regeneration” for the 2024 International Forum on Cultural Heritage: Sustainability and Resilience hosted by the Asian Network of Industrial Heritage in Taiwan.

The event was part of the 2024 International Day of Monuments and Sites on 18 April, this year dedicated to the theme “Disasters and Conflicts through the Lens of the Venice Charter”. The forum aimed to explore sustainable practices and the resilience and adaptability of cultural heritage in the face of contemporary challenges.

The audience comprised 55 participants on site and additional 70 participating online via Facebook on Youtube.

My talk in the session on Sustainability and Futures focused on the following issues:

“Disasters and conflicts are the outcome of societal failures to take sufficient precautions, respond adequately to emerging events, or behave appropriately peacefully towards each other. Their impact is perceived as worse if acceptance of change is low. I argue that all this can be improved by an updated perception of (world) cultural heritage that is based on concepts of renewal and regeneration rather than conservation and restoration, as it is, for example, still advocated in the 1964 Venice Charter. Narratives of change over time, exemplified by ever-changing cultural heritage, are likely able to improve resilience and preparedness for transformations in future societies. They can also facilitate a new more pan-human or indeed post-human understanding of our shared world. As Tim Ingold (2024) wrote recently, cultural heritage should not be seen as an inheritance to be transmitted from one generation to the next but as a living and perduring process of continuous renewal generating social life under varying circumstances over time.“

Ever-living trees

2024-04-06

Coastal sequoias represent a particular variety of long-term thinking. These redwood trees are not only very tall (100+ m) but also very long-living (up to 2,000+ years). 

The Humboldt Redwoods California State Park is the largest expanse of ancient redwoods left on Earth. They inspire throughout the park to a variety of references to the distant past and future: 

  • “Time immemorial”
  • “Ambassadors from another time”, (…) “can you imagine dinosaurs rubbing elbows against the ancient redwoods’ ancestors?”
  • “Relics of the Past”, “In a sense, this redwood forest is a window to the past—a place to glimpse a distant world that existed long ago.”
  • “These towering survivors will grace this land for centuries to come”
  • The Park “protects a story that will continue unfolding far into the future!”
  • “The enduring splendor of these magnificent trees”
  • “When you walk among the redwoods, time seems to stand still. Like our own lives, though, this forest is constant changing.”
  • “Redwoods,  now and forever”; “in memory of Travis Brian Percival. My forever love”
  • “The redwoods, once seen, create a vision that stays with you always…”
  • “Immortal tree”
  • “Eternal”, “ever-living” [the trees’ botanical name is Sequoia sempervirens]

Having said all that, it is intriguing that each redwood’s enormous weight rests on the external layers of the trunk. Their inner core decays first, and they have rather shallow and thin roots. — Is this nature’s inspiration for sustainability and long-term futures??

Long Now at Long Last

2024-04-01

Last night, I finally visited The Interval – home of The Long Now Foundation in San Francisco. A wonderful location and initiative, promoting long-term thinking since 01996:

The Interval is a bar, café, museum, and the home of The Long Now Foundation. Featuring a floor-to-ceiling library of the books you might need to rebuild civilization, mechanical prototypes for a clock meant to last for 10,000 years, art that continually evolves in real time, and a time-inspired menu of artisan drinks.

The ‘long now’ and futures-thinking are as worth promoting today as they were back in 2006, when Michael Chabon wrote for Details:

I don’t know what happened to the Future. It’s as if we lost our ability, or our will, to envision anything beyond the next hundred years or so, as if we lacked the fundamental faith that there will in fact be any future at all beyond that not-too-distant date. Or maybe we stopped talking about the Future around the time that, with its microchips and its twenty-four-hour news cycles, it arrived. […] The Future was represented so often and for so long, in the terms and characteristic styles of so many historical periods from, say, Jules Verne forward, that at some point the idea of the Future—along with the cultural appetite for it—came itself to feel like something historical, outmoded, no longer viable or attainable.

On my visit to The Interval, I also noted two things that I had not previously thought about regarding the work of The Long Now Foundation.

  • Firstly, its thinking is most prominently focussed on technology rather than, say, social or cultural issues. But is the long-term future really a question that is best advanced by technological innovations like the Foundations famous “Clock of the Long Now”?
  • Secondly, while they certainly champion long-term thinking in terms of millennia rather than decades, they developed this thinking before the emergence of the concept of “futures literacy” at UNESCO. The latter emphasizes the skills of becoming aware of your assumptions of the future and of imagining multiple alternative futures.

I can’t help wondering about the future of the Long Now Foundation. In other words, how LONG is it until its focus is going to be adapted to one or more new futures?

Various activities January – March 2024

2024-03-31

Cornelius Holtorf

Cornelius Holtorf held a meeting with Matthias Ripp and Monika Göttler representing the Organisation of World Heritage Cities (OWHC) in order to prepare a Futures Literacy Workshop during the OWHC’s Global Conference later this year in Cordoba, Spain (17 January 2024).

Cornelius Holtorf held meetings with Sanna Sjöo (Culture and Leisure Dept., Kalmar municipality) and the artists Ruben Wätte and Robin Tidblom about an initiative entitled Expedition Future with several events scheduled during 2024 in Kalmar County, inspired by our work on Heritage Futures (29 January and 7 March 2024).

Cornelius Holtorf discussed in conversation with Karin Stenson, Deputy Secretary-General for the Swedish National Commission for UNESCO at the Ministry of Education and Research, some concrete suggestions for the Zero Draft for the Declaration on Future Generations to be passed by the UN Summit of the Future in September 2024 (21 February 2024).

Cornelius Holtorf was invited to give a Cotsen Public Lecture and presented for an audience of more than 30 a lecture on “Excavating the Future: From Recovery to Regeneration” at the Cotsen Institute of Archaeology, UCLA, Los Angeles, USA (29 February 2024). He presented the lecture again for the Archaeological Research Center, University of California, Santa Cruz, USA (15 March 2024).

Cornelius Holtorf held a mini future workshop for the staff of the Dept. of Collections at the Getty Conservation Institute, Los Angeles, USA (1 March 2024).

Cornelius Holtorf held a meeting with representatives of Alcove Advisors and NEOM, a large-scale urban area planned by Saudi Arabia, regarding heritage futures and the preparation of guidelines for documenting future legacies of NEOM (4 March 2024).

Cornelius Holtorf was among the 300+ participants in the first UNESCO Chair Seminar on the planned UN Pact for the Future (5 March 2024). With about 150 participants representing UNESCO Chairs around the world, speakers from the Bureau of Strategic Planning at UNESCO and several UNESCO Chairs emphasized the need to give more weight to education (including higher education) and culture in the Pact of the Future currently drafted for the UN Summit of the Future to be held in September 2024 and by implication for the post-2030 agenda.

Cornelius Holtorf took part in the Global Stakeholder Consultation on Strategic Planning 2026-2031 for The international Centre for the Study of the Preservation and Restoration of Cultural Property, ICCROM (17 March 2024).

Anders Högberg presented a talk at a seminar in public humanities at Malmö University, invited by the Department of Society, Culture and Identity at Malmö University (26 March 2024).

Cornelius Holtorf had meetings discussing areas of mutual interest and future initiatives with Tim Whalen, Director of the Getty Conservation Institute, Joan Weinstein, Director of the Getty Foundation, and (repeatedly) Camille Kirk, Director of Sustainability at Getty (8, 20, 22, and 27 March 2024).

Cornelius Holtorf co-introduced with Giorgio Buccellati, UCLA and fellow Getty Scholar, a discussion seminar for Getty interns and Getty Guest Scholars on “Urkesh and The Book of Change” (27 March 2024).

Cornelius Holtorf presented a talk entitled “Outlook: Heritage Futures” for 60 senior Getty staff participating in the first Getty Sustainability Convening dedicated specifically to collection environments research and practice (28 March 2024).

On the same occasion, Cornelius Holtorf also ran a 20 minute exercise during lunchtime facilitating discussion among participants about assumptions about the future (28 March 2024).

The Book of Change

2024-03-20

Cornelius Holtorf presented for ca 60 physical and digital participants at the Getty Centre, Los Angeles, USA, an invited Conservation Scholar Lecture entitled “The Book of Change” (19 March 2024).

Abstract:

The question has been posed: “How do we make sense of the past in a world where the future is not what it used to be?” This presentation gives some tentative answers by discussing (not so) weak signals of future ways of making sense of the past and of cultural heritage. What they share is a change of values and perspectives through which analysis, conservation, interpretation, and uses of cultural heritage contribute to present and future societies. The Book of Change I will present contains a number of specific examples, but its main aim is to build courage, creativity, and competence for embracing in practice the insight that cultural heritage is not going to be what it used to be.

The Getty Lecture entitled “The Book of Change” is now available at https://vimeo.com/928192942/5c4ce2bc49?share=copy