Collaboration with Tehran

Wednesday, May 18th, 2022

We agreed today on a new collaboration of our UNESCO Chair on Heritage Futures with the UNESCO Category II Centre on Safeguarding Intangible Cultural Heritage in West and Central Asia at Tehran, Iran. Concrete activities will be subject to the availability of resources for implementing them.

The Tehran Centre had approached us initially in connection with a planned translation into Farsi of our volume Cultural Heritage and the Future (co-edited by Cornelius Holtorf and Anders Högberg in 2021 for Routledge).

Animation explains: What are Heritage Futures and why do they matter?

Tuesday, May 17th, 2022

Watch the animation on YouTube!

Cultural heritage reminds us of the past and has present values and uses, but how will future generations benefit from it?

– This short animation explains the need for futures thinking among cultural heritage professionals.

More information about the Chair 

Follow our work: @UnescoChairLNU




Review by Patricia Brum

Thursday, May 12th, 2022

Echoes of Eternity: Cultural heritage and the future (co-edited by Cornelius Holtorf and Anders Högberg, Routledge 2021)

Reviewed by Patricia Brum, researcher at História, Territórios e Comunidades – CFE NOVA FCSH, Portugal. Email:

The book Cultural heritage and the future, published during the pandemic in 2021, is a first contribution for this 21st century research topic, which has already led to the establishment of the Unesco Chair on Heritage Futures in 2017.

Although not concerned with the future of cultural heritage per se, several authors stress the importance of including the future in heritage studies. Cultural heritage studies have not been entirely unaware of what is to come. Sustainability, heritage risk assessment, the effects of climate change on cultural heritage, and the disposal of archaeological finds due to lack of space are some of the future-related topics being discussed in heritage.

As defined by Cornelius Holtorf and Anders Hogberg, the co-editors of this volume, “Heritage Futures are concerned with the roles of heritage in managing the relations between the present and future societies” (p.144). After all, if heritage practitioners tend to justify their work as important for future generations, one may ask how much they are really incorporated in their work. Most authors’ background is in archaeology, as dealing directly with tangible heritage is very much part of this subject. Yet this book does not focus on tangible heritage alone. Several articles are dedicated to intangible cultural heritage, such as that from Luo Li, one of the non-archaeologists among the authors. In the future, the perspective of experts with additional specialisms of heritage theorization should be invited to further the debate. After all, historians, art historians and architects also deal with built heritage and the latter already tend to have less traditional/conservative views, integrating many times the past in new constructions and dealing more with the reflexion of what from the past can be kept or is useful for the future, although sometimes disregarding completely what the past has to offer for the future.

One can argue that the already wide diversity of what is considered heritage in this book, defined right in the beginning as “what reminds people of the past, tangible or intangible, predominantly cultural but also natural” (p. 2), has different layers of integrating “future thinking”. It is noteworthy that it is not the same dealing with the future in the case of the Acropolis (p.  168), a UNESCO World Heritage site, as in the case of Salvation Mountain (p. 96). Searching through the examples given in this book, it seems sensible to use those from World Heritage Sites. As such, the article by Rosemary Joyce is paramount, proving that it is possible to discuss heritage futures in the context of the most highly regarded heritage. The detailed example of the Orfordness Lighthouse by Caitlin DeSilvey explains very clearly the processes of heritage: how worries of the future are present in heritage and a concern for communities. The editors’ effort to ensure global geographical distribution of contributors and examples is noteworthy, although they themselves recognize this attempt as incomplete.

A specific section within the larger theme being presented is about existing projects dealing with space and nuclear heritage. Radioactive waste is often presented as cultural heritage in this book, even though no archaeologist opposes to such a classification for a Roman garbage dump or an islamic pit. One could argue that the real debate is whether garbage of our present or recent past will be treated as we treat heritage today.

It is hard to predict how heritage will evolve and even if this is not the goal of this collection of articles, this book is a contribution to incorporating thinking the future in a field which is traditionally associated only with the past. How do heritage practitioners include the future in their work? Does heritage legislation allow change? “Could the heritage sector improve its capacity to think the future?” (p. 2); “how can heritage conservation empower future generations to be agents of change rather the stewards of the past?” (p. 198); “how might heritage provide the continuity necessary for the formation of stable identities?” (p. 254). This book opens the way for many more questions to come and as such is a hopeful and much needed volume.

Dynamic team! UNESCO Chair on Heritage Futures

Monday, May 9th, 2022
UNESCO Chair on Heritage Futures, team

UNESCO Chair on Heritage Futures, from left: Leila Papoli-Yazdi, Annalisa Bolin, Sarah May, Cornelius Holtorf, Emily Hanscam, Helena Rydén, Anders Högberg.

Missing from the photo: Claudio Pescatore and Ulrika Söderström.

For the first time in two years, the members of the UNESCO Chair on Heritage Futures assembled in Kalmar 11-14 April 2022, for joint discussions, presentations about completed and on-going work, and for socialising. We finished off with an excursion to the World Heritage City of Karlskrona.

Photocredit Joakim Palmqvist/Linnaeus University

Check out more information on the team here:

Postdoc Annalisa Bolin concludes her time at the UNESCO Chair

Tuesday, May 3rd, 2022

At the end of April, Annalisa Bolin’s postdoc in the UNESCO Chair concluded after two and a half years. Her work over this period included an initial project focused on heritage repatriation between Rwanda and Germany and a second project investigating heritage development, decolonization, and community engagement in rural Rwanda. Further publications in journals and edited volumes are forthcoming, and will be available via her website and Twitter

journal articles (all open-access thanks to the LNU library):

The Strategic Internationalism of Rwandan Heritage

Rwandan Solutions to Rwandan Problems: Heritage Decolonization and Community Engagement in Nyanza District, Rwanda (with David Nkusi)

Heritage Futures: A Conversation (with Cornelius Holtorf)


After Repatriation, What Next?

What Does It Mean to Decolonize Heritage? (with David Nkusi)

Of Elites and Ethics: Who Interests Cultural Heritage Studies? Reflections from the Ethnography of Rwanda (in Portuguese, with Tiago Muniz)

Violent Encounters: Cultural Heritage and Contemporary Dynamics of Violence

Future Heritage and Fashion Design: Rwandan Traditional Culture in the Global Market

Corona Crisis, UNESCO, and the Future: Do We Need a New World Heritage? (with Cornelius Holtorf)

Research in Insecure Times and Place: Ethics of Social Research for Emerging Ecologies of Insecurity (with Tatiana Carayannis)

Coronavirus and the Changing Practices of Memory in Rwanda


The Future of Heritage Repatriation (video)

HumPodd (podcast)

Walk’n’Talk with Ulrikke Voss (video interview)


Bones of Buried Kings

Like Dogs (only audio available online)


She will continue to be linked with the UNESCO Chair as a researcher. Her next position is as a research associate at the Social Science Research Council, a New York-based think tank that mobilizes social science in the public interest and focuses especially on how research can inform policy. Here she works in the program on Understanding Violent Conflict on various projects, including on cultural heritage and violence

Playful theorising

Sunday, April 24th, 2022

Cornelius Holtorf and Emily Hanscam attended the Nordic TAG conference in Oslo where they ran a practical workshop entitled “ARCHAEOLOGY TODAY (IN COLOUR)”. The abstract explained that…

Participants in the workshop will enjoy their coffee while busying themselves in small groups around several tables using crayons to draw in a colouring book (Archaeology Today, C. Holtorf and D. Lindskog 2021). The aim of the workshop is to inspire discussion on some archaeological key issues and on the forms in which such thinking may be expressed and practiced in various archaeological formats. We will find out what happens when adults adopt what is (supposedly) a children’s’ activity: will it bring out the child in each of us or will participants long for more adult genres? What does that entail in the context of academic discourse, fieldwork reports, and for the future of theoretical archaeology? We will ask us together what’s the use of theory when you can go and paint in a book (and vice versa). [shortened and slightly edited]

In the event, we found that the practice of colouring was a thinking device and conversation opener. All participants felt that archaeologists need to make archaeological theorising more playful and more commonly break rules and conventions in the name of creativity…

White Paper published

Tuesday, April 19th, 2022

Collaboration between the two Joint Programming Initiatives “Cultural Heritage and Global Change” (JPI CH), and “Connecting Climate Knowledge for Europe” (JPI Climate) 2019-2022 has now led to a White Paper on Cultural Heritage and Climate Change: New Challenges and Perspectives for Research. Cornelius Holtorf was among the 26 authors.

The goal of the White Paper is to support the two JPIs to generate policy-relevant research outcomes. Thanks to our input, the 31 page-document emphasizes explicitly the significance of ‘heritage futures’ for informing future research agendas:

Among the White Paper’s recommendations for research are…

  • to generate more knowledge on how, in different contexts, cultural meanings and values can enhance climate adaptation and mitigation,
  • to understand better the future risks and opportunities of different perceptions and uses of cultural heritage, not the least for planning climate adaptation,
  • to make sure that more training is available for stakeholders and decision-makers regarding feasible solutions for climate adaptation, including effective methods to evaluate benefits and harm of conservation actions,
  • to investigate threats and opportunities of reducing, renewing, reconstructing, and regenerating cultural heritage for enhancing social cohesion.


Review by Kate Croll

Saturday, April 9th, 2022

Holtorf, C. and Högberg, A. (eds). 2021. Cultural Heritage and the Future. New York: Routledge. 279 pp. ISBN 978-1-138-82901-5 (paperback).

Reviewed by Kathryn D. Croll, University of the Witwatersrand, South Africa. Email: .

As an archaeologist from a developing country with a background in heritage management, I was intrigued by this book for two reasons: how heritage practitioners elsewhere think of and conceptualize the future and, what this book could add to heritage management and preservation in Africa. The editors acknowledge a crucial flaw in the book in the introduction – that significant areas of the world are not represented in the book. Indeed, almost all of the case studies presented are from the developed world which is in a position to be future-facing and able to think of future heritages. However, the concepts and initiatives raised in this book can be applied to multiple contexts and multiple heritages.

The first section of the book is critical of treating heritage as a “gift” to the future because this treatment assumes that future generations will be “grateful” to us for preserving heritage. Rather, we cannot know what future generations would want from heritage, if anything at all. This book also raises important questions, such as why a specific piece of heritage should be preserved for future generations. In trying to answer these kinds of questions, it is stressed that there is no, and can be no, one-size-fits-all scenario. It is also emphasized that viewing heritage preservation as being on a continuum and developing conjunctive heritage preservation strategies are important for building a framework for “future heritage”.

The inclusion of intangible and living heritage in discussion of future heritage is essential as it is through these kinds of heritage that heritage is formed and continually produced and reproduced. The discussion around Chinese living heritage by Li (Chapter 4) provides a different (i.e. non-Western) perspective on heritage creation and production and shows that the different heritage sectors should learn from each other and use each other’s knowledge to aid with curating heritage for the future.

The criticism by Gonzalez-Ruibal (Chapter 5) that developed countries excessively curate, list and plan preservation and conservation of heritage sites is refreshing, as is the assertion that heritage (both tangible and intangible) is being rapidly destroyed in war-torn countries (which tend to be developing countries). The inundation of the UNESCO world heritage sites list with sites from developed countries reinforces the idea that the West is more developed and more capable of heritage protection. Gonzalez-Ruibal’s suggestion that we allow heritage sites to undergo change and renewal makes space for thinking of multiple futures and allows for more flexible management that is able to adapt to different futures and different future generations’ perspectives on heritage. This ties in with Dixon’s (Chapter 6) study on incomplete or unfinished buildings which at times can represent uncertainty in societies – these unfinished structures, modern or historical, can be used or reused today and in the future and need not be left unfinished or unused.

The third part of the book deals with ‘Armageddon heritage’ – heritage that has been created as a result of Cold War fears as well as heritage in the form of nuclear waste. The consideration of nuclear waste and its safe disposal ties in with concepts of treating heritage on a continuum and as renewable and that meanings and values ascribed to heritage (both tangible and intangible) shift and change over time. The suggestion by Joyce (Chapter 11) that we heritage professionals “operate with the assumption that people are universally concerned with their futures, including distant ones” is important because, as I have already stated, not everyone is in the position to consider the future, especially when the present is difficult enough. This assumption is also one that heritage practitioners operating in developing countries need to consider when developing heritage preservation and conservation plans because the needs of the present may outweigh the needs of the future.

This theme of the consideration of current and future needs runs through this book and is particularly apparent in the last part of the book. The final section deals with sustainability and the fluidity of the future and heritage. The idea that heritage should both serve the needs of people today and tomorrow is critical, and the final chapters emphasize that protecting heritage needs to be sustainable and cater to multiple possible needs of the future – if at all possible.

Ultimately, this book is a useful guide to all heritage practitioners from archaeologists to heritage site managers because it provides a guide for how to think about the future in a broad sense – that it is changeable and fluid and that the way we think about heritage today should be as well. Grounding heritage future thinking in studies from other fields which are already looking into how the future is formulated will allow for better articulation of future thinking. Lastly, more case studies from a broader range of countries and contexts would be a useful addition to heritage future thinking. As it stands, the book is lacking indigenous perspectives on heritage conservation and protection but the concepts and initiatives raised in this book regarding the future of heritage should lead to more studies and the inclusion of other perspectives. Importantly, thinking of heritage as fluid and changeable allows for the applicability of future-thinking in multiple heritage contexts.

Into Eternity

Friday, April 8th, 2022

Cornelius Holtorf and Leila Papoli-Yazdi attended the Sixth International Conference on Geological Repositories (ICGR-6) in Helsinki, Finland (4-8 April 2022). The conference was held in the Paasitorni, a former Worker’s Assembly Hall now a transnational serial nomination for UNESCO World Heritage.

Among the topics discussed at the conference were questions about building trust in society and managing uncertainty. One irony is that ignorance and indifference may lead to trust whereas knowledge and engagement may result from (and support) distrust.

The conference included a site visit to the Finnish low- and intermediate-level waste repository and visitor centre (ONKALO) at Olkiluoto. The site became well known through the 2010 documentary Into Eternity.


Various activities January – March 2022

Friday, April 1st, 2022

Cornelius Holtorf gave an invited keynote lecture on “Digitizing archives, urban heritage, and the needs of future generations” at the conference Digitizing Jerusalem Archives: Urban Heritage in the age of Digital Culture, Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design, Jerusalem, Israel (3 January 2022)

Cornelius Holtorf taught 11 students at Linnaeus University, during two 2-hour sessions, about “Global Cultural Policy,” including the history of UNESCO World Heritage and the significance for cultural heritage of the Agenda 2030, incl. climate change, and of futures thinking. The students are reading our programme on Cultural Heritage in Present and Future Societies (10 Jan 2022).

Cornelius Holtorf taught 12 students at Linnaeus University, during two 2-hour sessions, about “UNESCO World heritage,” including a history of the World Heritage Convention and its achievements and challenges. The students are reading our programme on Cultural Heritage in Present and Future Societies (21 Jan 2022).

Cornelius Holtorf and Anders Högberg attended the digital Second Plenary of the Working Party on Information, Data and Knowledge Management of the Nuclear Energy Agency, OECD, Paris (1-3 Feb 2022).

Cornelius attended the Annual Policy Conversation “A Cultural Deal for Europe” arranged by Europa Nostra in collaboration with Culture Action Europe and the European Cultural Foundation (1 Feb 2022). It started with a video message by the President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen.

Cornelius Holtorf contributed with a cautionary note describing The Climate-Heritage Paradox to a call by the Climate Heritage Network to submit ideas in the context of a consultation of the UN climate change agency UNFCCC regarding the development of a new Global Goal on Adaptation, as discussed in this decision taken at COP26 (1 Feb 2022).

Cornelius Holtorf lectured on “Is the World Heritage Convention Out of Date?” for 20+ attendants at the Department of Archaeology, University of Durham, UK (9 February 2022).

Cornelius Holtorf opened a discussion on “Social relevance – threat or opportunity?” in the Salon FKH series, Faculty of Arts and Humanities, Linnaeus University (15 February 2022)

Cornelius Holtorf attended Joanne Clarke’s Inaugural Lecture as Professor entitled “Archaeology, Heritage And Climate Change: How Recent Research Is Influencing International Policy Agendas” and held at the University of Est Anglia, UK (22 February 2022)

Cornelius Holtorf contributed with a presentation on “The War in Ukraine and Heritage Futures” to a panel debate, attended by almost 70 global participants, on Cultural Heritage in War: Making Ukraine’s Past and Future organised by the Cultural Heritage Studies Programme at Central European University (3 March 2022).

Cornelius Holtorf has been appointed to the Scientific Council of the Römisch-Germanisches Zentralmuseum.
Leibniz-Forschungsinstitut für Archäologie (for the period 2022-2026). The RGZM was founded in 1852 and is an international research institute for Archaeology, based in Mainz, Germany.

Cornelius Holtorf presented a talk on “What is heritage futures and why does it matter?” at a research seminar on Critical Heritage and Place Consumption at the University of Lincoln, UK (9 March 2022).

Cornelius Holtorf lectured on Heritage Futures for 25 students in Design, reading a course on Design Processes and Methods focussing on Time at Linnaeus University (10 March 2022).

Cornelius Holtorf participated in the World Heritage Council meeting for the World Heritage site “Agricultural Landscape Southern Öland”, representing Linnaeus University (11 March 2022).

Emily Hanscam gave a talk on “Constrained by the Classics: Legacies of Rome in the United States” to researchers at the Department of Cultural Sciences, Linnaeus University, Kalmar (22 March 2022).

Cornelius Holtorf attended a seminar by Riina Alatalu, ICOMOS Vice-President for Europe, organised as part of the Annual Meeting of ICOMOS Sweden. Alatulu holds a new UNESCO Chair on Cultural Heritage at the Estonian Academic of Arts. She reported among others that ICOMOS Belarus has been dissolved by the government of Belarus and about the internal discussions within ICOMOS International on a statement concerning the war in Ukraine. I reminded the cirka 20 participants of the fact that The World Heritage Site “Struve Geodetic Arc” actually runs through Sweden, Finland, Estonia, Belarus, Moldova, Ukraine and Russia (and some other contries) and asked how this site, once the war has ceased, could contribute to peace through ICOMOS (28 March 2022).