Chair on Heritage Futures

Swedish Museums’ Spring Meeting


The theme of the 2021 Spring Meeting of the Organisation of Swedish Museums was “Contribute, Collaborate, Impact – together we come longer” (27-29 april 2021). 

The programme featured an interview with Anders Högberg and a conversation including Cornelius Holtorf on the topic of the gathering. Anders presented his latest work on Museum Entrepreneurship, whereas Cornelius discussed the experiences of our Research School GRASCA.

Due to the pandemic, some presentations were pre-recorded this year.


International Day of Monuments and Sites


18 April is the International Day of Monuments and Sites, coordinated by ICOMOS. This year the theme is “Complex Pasts – Diverse Futures”.

Our UNESCO Chair on Heritage Futures participates in the International Programme, representing Sweden, with a digital exhibition entitled Balloon Head: Iran’s Constitutional Revolution Reconfigured and curated by Leila Papoli-Yazdi.

Focusing on Iran’s Mashrouteh (Constitutional) Revolution, Ali Roustaeeyanfard’s paintings reconfigure historical photographs of complex historic events and processes at the beginning of the 20th century.

By adding colourful anachronistic details to the original motifs of the photographs his work depicts unimagined futures and the need to re-narrate the past in every present. The paintings illustrate that there are unexpected and diverse futures, both of the past and of the tangible heritage that reminds us of the past in the present. Roustaeeyanfard’s hope is to revive the forgotten heritage and history of voiceless people in order to fulfil their original dream of achieving freedom and progress through the Revolution.


Can we predict the future?


During the 2021 International Swedish Science Festival, one session was dedicated to the question “Can we predict the future?” (in Swedish).

Eight academics from Gothenburg University and Chalmers Technical University presented short lectures on perspectives from their various subjects, predicting everything from national elections, food, the stock market, and human behaviour, and discussing the impact of robots, future leadership, and whom to trust. 

Although the social sciences were well represented, references to the humanities and the cultural sector were conspicuously absent. I am waiting for the way when it will be self-evident for more historians, classicists, literary scholars, philosophers and others in the humanities to consider the future. 

Cultural heritage and the European Green Deal


Cornelius Holtorf was interviewed by Sorina Buzatu for youris.com, an independent non-profit media agency promoting European innovation via TV media and the web. Her article is about cultural heritage and sustainability in the context of the European Green Deal, in which the words “heritage”, “art”, “culture” and “landscape” do not appear.

The article, published on 15 April 2021, discusses to what extent cultural heritage challenges or contributes to a sustainable future (read it here or here). Holtorf is quoted asking 

“What kind of cultural heritage will be needed in the next 20 to 30 years in order to make the life better? What can we do today about the heritage to maximise its benefit for the future? In some cases, that entails preservations, while in others, it demands us to choose some heritage more than others, or to create new heritage over time.” 

Understanding future recipients of our messages


The first regular meeting of the Expert Group on Awareness Preservation, which is part of the Working Party on Information, Data and Knowledge Management at the OECD’s Nuclear Energy Agency, took place 7-8 April 2021.

Its Chair, Martin Kunze, emphasised that the group will continue the previous work of the NEA on Records, Knowledge and Memory but shift the emphasis from designing and transmitting messages on nuclear waste deposits to understanding its future recipients. 

Both Cornelius Holtorf and Anders Högberg contributed with presentations. Cornelius outlined a necessary shift of thinking from preserving objects to anticipating social processes and embracing change, based on current thinking in Heritage Studies. Anders introduced related ideas about futures consciousness and futures literacy, emphasising the need to avoid imposing our own ideas onto the future and to try and accommodate decisions made in future presents.

Various activities January – March 2021


Cornelius Holtorf taught 10 students at Linnaeus University, during two 2-hour sessions, about “Global Perspectives on Cultural Policy,” including the role of UNESCO and the significance for cultural heritage of the agenda 2030 and of futures thinking. The students are reading the programme on Cultural Heritage in Present and Future Societies (7 Jan 2021).

Cornelius Holtorf presented a talk entitled “Beyond strategic leadership” in a Programme for Future Research Leaders held at Malmö University (12 January 2021).

Cornelius Holtorf took part in a panel discussion on resilience and vulnerability starting off the International Workshop Theorizing Resilience & Vulnerability in Ancient Studies arranged by RGZM Mainz, Germany (19 January 2021).

Cornelius Holtorf attended the digital Final Conference of the project DUNC – Development of UNESCO Natural and Cultural Assets (26 January 2021)

Cornelius Holtorf and Anders Högberg attended the digital First Plenary of the Working Party on Information, Data and Knowledge Management of the Nuclear Energy Agency, OECD, Paris (26-27 January 2021).

Cornelius Holtorf was interviewed by Britta Rudolf on the topic of heritage futures, with the conversation being recorded for the benefit of the Masters students reading Introduction to Heritage Site Management at BTU Cottbus-Senftenberg, Germany (28 January 2021).

Cornelius Holtorf had an informal meeting with Alison Heritage at the International Centre for the Study of the Preservation and Restoration of Cultural Property (ICCROM) on possible future collaborations regarding foresight and capacity building in heritage futures (29 January 2021).

Cornelius Holtorf had an informal meeting with Yannis Avramidis (Senior Manager, World Monuments Watch) and Jonathan Bell (Vice-President of Programs) of the World Monuments Fund discussing possibilities for future collaborations (29 January 2021).

Cornelius Holtorf participated in a session about the history and contemporary significance of UNESCO World Heritage during the Annual Conference of the Swedish National Heritage Board (3 February 2021).

Cornelius Holtorf was interviewed on Swedish Radio P4 Uppland about future archaeology in relation to the planned final repository of nuclear waste in Sweden (9 February 2021).

Cornelius Holtorf met with Lisa Carlson (World Heritage Coordinator), Max Dager (Head of Culture, Municipality of Karlskrona), Mats Persson and Malin Jogmark (Maritime Museum) concerning a planned application of Naval City of Karlskrona World Heritage Site to the World Monuments Watch scheme (9 February 2021).

Cornelius Holtorf participated in the first meeting of a working group of 17 European experts writing a White Paper on “Cultural Heritage and Climate Change: New challenges and perspectives for research” in a joint initiative of JPI Cultural Heritage and JPI Climate (17 March 2021).

Cornelius Holtorf co-presented with Ma Qingkai, Chen Xian, and Zhang Yu a discussion entitled “Paris, China: Some Thoughts about the Value of Simulated Heritage” for an audience of about 135 attendees of the (digital) conference  Understanding Authenticity of China’s Cultural Heritage organised at the School of Archaeology, University of Oxford (19 March 2021).

Cornelius Holtorf attended sessions of the digital Sustainable Heritage Bidecennial Conference at University College London, focussing on “Heritage risk and resilience” and “Future heritage” respectively (22-25 March 2021). He had collaborated in planning the latter session.

Leila Papoli-Yazdi presented a research seminar on “Secret lives hidden in garbage bags: a short report of a Garbology project in Tehran, Iran” for 14 researchers associated with the Dept of Cultural Sciences at Linnaeus University (23 March 2021).

Cornelius Holtorf participated in a seminar on “The Faro Convention – Background, Content, and the Swedish Position” organised as part of the Annual Meeting of ICOMOS Sweden (25 March 2021).  

Cornelius Holtorf participated as representative of Linnaeus University in the regular meeting of the World Heritage Council for the World Heritage site Agricultural Landscape of Southern Öland (26 March 2021).