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New Publication: Critical Heritage Studies and the Futures of Europe

By Anna Sexton, on 18 November 2023

A new open access volume featuring chapters from CCARMS researchers, Critical Heritage Studies and the Futures of Europe, has been published by UCL Press.

Critical Heritage Studies and the Futures of Europe, edited by Rodney Harrison, Nélia Dias, and Kristian Kristiansen, is the final outcome of the Marie Sklodowska-Curie actions (MSCA) Innovative Training Network (ITN) “CHEurope: Towards an integrated, interdisciplinary and transnational training model in cultural heritage research and management.”

This new publication includes chapters by CCARMS members and DIS researchers Andrew Flinn, Julianne Nyhan, and Hannah Smyth who were part of this project and doctoral training consortium. Their chapters come under the thematic subsection ‘Digital heritages and digital futures’, partially reflecting the work package to which they belonged for the duration of the project: ‘Digital heritage: the future role of heritage and archive collections in a digital world.’

Hannah Smyth’s chapter, ‘#Womenof1916 and the heritage of the Easter Rising on Twitter’, uses data collected for her PhD thesis to reflect on the role of social media for critical heritage studies in an uncertain data landscape. A study of the ways in which Irish feminists were engaging in critical remembrance of the 1916 Rising in 2016, it further contemplates the ephemeral and mnemonic qualities of social media posts and their archival potential, specifically posts on X (formerly known as Twitter). More broadly, it reflects on the political and affective nature of absence and presence in relation to heritage things and feminist discourses.

Alongside authors Gertjan Plets, Alexandra Ortolja-Baird and Jaap Verheul, Julianne Nyhan and Andrew Flinn’s chapter, ‘De-neutralising digital heritage infrastructures? Critical considerations on digital engagements with the past in the context of Europe’, interrogates the problem of ‘technology overtrust’ and the difficulties of decoding complex digital infrastructures that store and provide access to digital heritage and data. Two case studies – the ‘Enlightenment Architectures: Sir Hans Sloane’s Catalogues’ project and the Central Archaeological Inventory of the Flemish Government (Belgium) – are used to explore these key questions from different vantages: the absence of marginalised and minority voices in digital collections and ways to overcome this, and how users are impacted by digital platforms and the historical narratives that they encourage. The chapter is a call for the critical assessment of digital heritage infrastructures that can make plain their affordances and biases in order to support ethical collections management and access as well as more critical interpretation of collections by both expert and non-expert end-users.

The book is available fully open access through UCL Press.

More about the book:

Cultural and natural heritage are central to ‘Europe’ and ‘the European project’. They were bound up in the emergence of nation-states in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, where they were used to justify differences over which border conflicts were fought. Later, the idea of a ‘common European heritage’ provided a rationale for the development of the European Union.

Now, the emergence of ‘new’ populist nationalisms shows how the imagined past continues to play a role in cultural and social governance, while a series of interlinked social and ecological crises are changing the ways that heritage operates. New discourses and ontologies are emerging to reconfigure heritage for the circumstances of the present and the uncertainties of the future.

Taking the current role of heritage in Europe as its starting point, Critical Heritage Studies and the Futures of Europe presents a number of case studies that explore key themes in this transformation. Contributors draw on a range of disciplinary perspectives to consider, variously, the role of heritage and museums in the migration and climate ‘emergencies’; approaches to urban heritage conservation and practices of curating cities; digital and digitised heritage; the use of heritage as a therapeutic resource; and critical approaches to heritage and its management. Taken together, the chapters explore the multiple ontologies through which cultural and natural heritage have actively intervened in redrawing the futures of Europe and the world.

The fully open access monograph may be downloaded from the UCL Press website.

The CHEurope project, which ran from 2016-2021, was a collaboration involving the University of Gotheburg, UCL, University of Amsterdam, University Institute of Lisbon, Spanish National Research Council, University of Hasselt, University of Utrecht, Istituto per i Beni Artistici Culturali e Ambientali della Regione Emilia Romagna and was funded under the Horizon Europe MSCA-ITN-2016 – Innovative Training Networks call.

Further details

Posted By Anna Sexton, Authored by Hannah Smyth

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