Chair on Heritage Futures

Impact of our work on memory across generations


Our work concerning memory across generations has found its way into the 2020 Report of the Swedish Nuclear Waste Council to the Swedish Government (SOU 2020:9, in Swedish).

The report contains in chapter 7 over several pages a summary of the results of our Workshop “Information and memory for future decision making – radioactive waste and beyond” held in May 2019 in Stockholm. An English translation of the report will be published later this spring.


Critical Perspectives on Cultural Memory and Heritage


Cornelius Holtorf was invited to contribute a critical epilogue to a new study on Critical Perspectives on Cultural Memory and Heritage edited by Veysel Apaydin and available in open access. After reading the other contributions he concluded, among others, that

“There is a risk that certain ways of discussing, conceptualising and indeed managing cultural heritage could ultimately cause more harm than benefit for future societies. For that reason it is paramount to think carefully and critically about how what we are doing today could have significant impact on the future.”

Shaping Sustainable Futures through Heritage…


… was the topic of this years’s Spring Conference of the Nordic Centre of Heritage Learning and Creativity (NCK) held on 12-13 February 2020 in Östersund, Sweden.

The conference brought together more than 60 participants from several countries lively discussing what futures thinking and sustainable development can mean in the context of museums, archives and heritage sites. In his keynote lecture entitled Sustainable Futures for Heritage?, Cornelius Holtorf argued that cultural heritage will have a future to the extent that it can contribute to sustainable societies. But what does that mean?

Staffan Appelgren from the University of Göteborg gave one possible answer when he asked at the end of his lecture on re-use and the circular economy: “why do museums have collections? Why do they not borrow things as needed?” Other unusual ideas were explored in a time travel to the year 2070 that was organised by Kalmar County Museum and concluded the conference. Clearly, with methods developed in reference to the past we can travel to the future too.

For the heritage sector to be able to work towards the Sustainable Development Goals in a concrete way much similar innovation will be needed, both in thinking and in practice. To make a real difference for future generations it will not be good enough for heritage experts to campaign against losing a few coastal heritage sites to rising sea levels… 

Creative (un)makings: disruptions in art/archaeology


An exhibition at Santo Tirso International Museum of Contemporary Sculpture in northern Portugal, 6 March – 21 June 2020.

Art/archaeology argues that writing and thinking about the past should move beyond existing boundaries of both disciplines, and that creative work should replace written texts and lectures. Art/archaeology opens a new space where creative work, thought, and debate expand in unexpected directions, and where we find innovative potentials for objects from the past.

Cornelius Holtorf (with Martin Kunze) prepared a contribution to this exhibition entitled “Preserved for the Future”. This work illustrates the creativity in all preservation and challenges the widespread preservation paradigm according to which the cultural heritage is constantly at risk and must be saved from loss.

“Preserved for the Future” is part of the larger installation called Ineligible which takes artefacts from an excavation in San Francisco and uses them as raw materials in order to make new artistic work that stimulates museum viewers’ thoughts about a variety of contemporary issues. More here.