Posts Tagged ‘heritage futures’

Responding to the climate emergency

Saturday, October 1st, 2022

I have been attending the UNESCO World Conference on Cultural Policies and Sustainable Development MONDIACULT 2022 in Mexico-City (28-30 September 2022). My University made a story out of it!

My formal role was an invited statement in the session “Responding to the climate emergency: new imperatives for cultural policy”, organised by the Climate Heritage Network. The session attracted an audience of more than 60 and was well received.

In my short contribution, I emphasized the significance of culture for mitigating the climate crisis and for preparing for a different world in the future. I also noted what I called the Climate Heritage Paradox:

  1. Heritage promotes continuity when we in fact need change.
  2. Heritage is framed in a local/national context when in fact we need global and multilateral collaboration.

(Similar issues are now also discussed in a White Paper on “The role of cultural and natural heritage for climate action” which resulted from the  International Co-Sponsored Meeting on Culture, Heritage and Climate Change co-arranged by IPCC, UNESCO, and ICOMOS in December 2021.)

I concluded with two action items. Capacity building is necessary …

  • for the cultural sector generally: integrate foresight and long-term futures thinking throughout the sector (as also recommended in the UN Secretary General’s 2021 report on Our Common Agenda)
  • for the cultural heritage sector and education in heritage: (a) embrace more often change (or cultural diversity over time), not as much continuity and conservation, as well as (b) strengthen global thinking in the field.


Monday, September 26th, 2022

Cornelius is on his way to MONDIACULT 2022 in Mexico-City, taking with him a parcel containing copies of our new leafletSustainable Development Needs Foresight”.

Free Training Resources UNESCO Chair on Heritage Futures

The aim is to create interest in our work with heritage futures and to advertise the Chair’s free training resources now available via .

Climate Ruins

Monday, May 23rd, 2022

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…

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




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:

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.

Cultural Heritage and Wellbeing

Thursday, March 24th, 2022


As part of the EUniWell Open Lecture Series, Prof. Cornelius Holtorf presented on 24 March 2022 on

“Cultural Heritage, Well-being and the Future”


Cultural heritage is often assumed to be of timeless value. But over recent decades, cultural heritage has been fundamentally reconceptualised in global policies. Whereas for about two centuries, cultural heritage was usually appreciated as a tangible token of collective histories, usually connected to ideas linked to Romantic Nationalism, now we see a different paradigm gradually taken over: cultural heritage is increasingly valued in relation to the intangible impacts and uses it has for specific communities. In this context, the concept of wellbeing has become central, and I will give a few concrete examples what that means for cultural heritage. Taking this development even further, cultural heritage in global contexts is today most commonly addressed within the framework of sustainable development. Yet political bodies such as the UN and national governments (even those embracing wellbeing) are still locked into older perceptions and often fail to embrace fully the ‘new’ cultural heritage. The UNESCO Chair on Heritage Futures is contributing to changing this by focusing on how cultural heritage can best benefit future generations.

The lecture was recorded and will be available online soon.

Heritage for the future

Tuesday, March 15th, 2022

Under the French Presidency of the Council of the European Union, the Foundation for Heritage Science organised the symposium ‘Heritage for the Future, Science for Heritage: A European Adventure for Research and Innovation’. The hybrid event was accessible physically in Paris as well as digitally (15-16 March 2022).

Claudio Pescatore participated physically and will soon report about his impressions on this blog.

Cornelius Holtorf and Anders Högberg participated digitally. They also had a short paper accepted entitled “Why cultural heritage needs foresight“. In that paper, they argue that the cultural heritage sector, including Heritage Science, needs to address an inherent lack of capability in futures thinking by enhancing foresight and ‘futures literacy’. The sector ought to take seriously the consequences of the insight that the uses and values of cultural heritage in future societies will be different from those in the present and in the past. Foresight and futures literacy will allow the cultural heritage sector to respond to climate change and other global developments, risks and challenges anticipated by futurists

Mångårigt SKB-samarbete med viktiga resultat

Thursday, March 10th, 2022

När regeringen i januari 2022 sa ja till att bygga ett slutförvar för använt kärnbränsle i Forsmark i Östhammars kommun, lyfte flera aktörer frågan om hur informationsbevarande till framtida generationer ska utformas. Många menade att det nu är dags att växla upp forskningen om hur minnespraktiker och informationsöverföring till framtida generation ska organiseras och ske.

Sedan 2011 har jag och Cornelius Holtorf arbetat med dessa frågor. Det har vi bland annat gjort tillsammans med Svensk Kärnbränslehantering AB (SKB). Med anledning av regeringens beslut blev jag nyfiken på vad SKB uppfattar att vårt arbete tillsammans har givit dem. Sofie Tunbrant är en av våra närmaste samarbetspartners på SKB. Under ett kort samtal med henne frågade jag vad hon ser som viktiga resultat från vårt samarbete.


Här är Sofie Tunbrants svar:

Under dessa lite mer än tio år har vårt samarbete bidragit på många sätt och jag vill speciellt lyfta fram två aspekter: ni har breddat våra perspektiv och ni har gett oss nya kontakter och därmed möjligheter att introducera frågan i flera sammanhang.

Ni har tagit med SKB in i många nya konstellationer där vi fått tillfälle att arbeta tillsammans inom områden och med personer som vi inte kände sedan tidigare. Ett av många exempel är att ni öppnat upp för oss att brett möta forskarvärlden, så vi har kunnat inleda samarbete med forskare och forskningsmiljöer. Ett fint exempel är vår medverkan i projektet Heritage Futures vid UCL, där vi blev inbjudna som partner. Ett annat exempel är tillfällen då vi kunnat mötas i gränslandet mellan forskning och konstnärlig gestaltning för att diskutera gemensamma frågor, som när ni arrangerade en workshop med rundabordssamtal i samarbete med kuratorn Ele Carpenter och Malmö Konstmuseum i anslutning till utställningen Perpetual Uncertainty.

Sammantaget har detta fått effekter hos oss på SKB. Vi har fått ett omfattande nätverk, som vi inte kunnat få till på egen hand. Det har hjälpt oss att utvecklas i våra sätt att se på och förstå frågan om informationsöverföring. Vi har också kunnat skapa en mer fördjupad kunskap om vad komplexiteten i frågan handlar om. På så sätt har vårt samarbete gett oss många nya insikter, kunskaper och möjligheter.

Ni har också tagit med SKB i nationella och internationella konstellationer som vi inte kunnat delta i utan vårt samarbete. Det gör att SKB har kunnat berätta om sitt arbete med informationsbevarande i nya sammanhang. Ett exempel är konferensen Information and Memory for Future Decision-Making i Stockholm 2019. Här kunde vi under tre dagars seminarier och diskussioner arbeta med frågan tillsammans med representanter från bland annat kommuner, miljöorganisationer och myndigheter.

Genom våra samarbeten har SKB kunnat introducera frågan om informationsbevarande i anslutning till slutförvaren med radioaktivt avfall i en mångfald av sammanhang. Det finns flera aktörer som arbetar med informationsbevarande på lång sikt, men som inte tidigare kopplat sitt arbete till SKB:s slutförvar. Att fler personer och aktörer känner till och reflekterar över frågan gör att den hålls levande. Det är avgörande för att samhället ska kunna arbeta med de lösningar som krävs för att framtiden ska ha de kunskaper och verktyg de behöver.

av Anders Högberg

Prof Anders Högberg UNESCO Chair on Heritage Futures

Professor Anders Högberg UNESCO Chair on Heritage Futures


Heritage Futures, webplats HÄR

Perpetual Uncertainty, info HÄR

Information and Memory for Future Decision-Making, rapport HÄR

Strålsäkerhetsmyndigheten har nyligen publicerat en rapport där vårt arbete lyfts fram, den nås HÄR