Chair on Heritage Futures

Climate Ruins


Carbon Ruins’ is an exhibition project aiming to transport the visitor into a future where transitions to post-fossil society has already happened. The project is the result of several initiatives at Lund University, most notably the Narrating Climate Futures Initiative, the Climaginaries project and the think tank LU Futura.

Here is the pretext of the exhibition.

It is 2053. The Swedish government has just opened its landmark museum FOSSIL with its first exhibition Carbon Ruins. The exhibition and its grand opening is a celebration of the fact that global net-zero emissions of carbon dioxide were reached in 2050. Sweden, in line with its 2017 targets, reached net-zero emissions of greenhouse gases already in 2045, being the first country in the world to step out of the fossil era, which globally lasted between 1849 and 2049.

Intriguing, especially from a perspective informed by archaeology and cultural heritage (which does not seem to have informed the design of the exhibition)! I hope to be able to see it one day…

Collaboration with Tehran


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?


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 https://lnu.se/en/unescochair 

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Review by Patricia Brum


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: patriciabrum@fcsh.unl.pt

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.

(A  Portuguese version of this review was published in Almadan online, July 2022.)

Dynamic team! UNESCO Chair on Heritage Futures


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: https://lnu.se/en/unescochair

Postdoc Annalisa Bolin concludes her time at the UNESCO Chair


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