Portrait Cornelius Holtorf

Linnaeus University gets the world´s first UNESCO Chair in Heritage Futures

Cornelius Holtorf, professor of archaeology at Linnaeus University has been awarded a UNESCO Chair in archaeology with specialisation heritage futures. With his constant focus on the present and the future he has a unique research profile within his discipline.

"To be awarded a professorship by the UN body UNESCO is an honour and a confirmation that my area of research is important, gets attention and comes to use", says Holtorf.

Archaeologist with focus on the future

While most archaeologists work to preserve our cultural heritage and historical information in the present, Holtorf focuses on the future instead. This gives him a unique and innovative research profile within the field of archaeology.

"Within the global cultural heritage sector, great emphasis is put on saving cultural heritage from destruction. I am of the opinion that we must broaden this perspective and create a different type of understanding. We must ask ourselves questions like why these historical objects are to be preserved for the future and of what exact use they will be to the people of the future".

Communicating with the future

With his clear focus on the future, Holtorf wants to meet societal needs and develop new areas of use for archaeology. One such example is nuclear waste disposal. For several years, Holtorf and his colleagues at Linnaeus University have worked with the question how we are to inform future generations about where we will have buried dangerous radioactive waste.

"We can't expect that 100,000 years from now, people will still reason the same way we do today. We can't possibly now if our conditions will be good or bad in the future. In order to communicate with the future we must think in new ways. Nuclear waste and cultural heritage have a lot in common", Holtorf continues.

Creating memories for future generations

Another question Holtorf is involved in right now is what to do with the two Buddha statues in the Bamiyan Valley in Afghanistan, which were destroyed by the Taliban in 2001. In the end of September this year, he will participate in a UNESCO conference where researchers and experts from all over the world will discuss the possibility to rebuild the statues.

"My contribution to the conference will be to highlight the fact that there are other options than reconstruction. What should be in focus is the meaning and utility for future generations. Destroyed monuments can also contribute to the transmission of memory", Holtorf concludes.

What is a UNESCO Chair?

UNESCO Chairs were introduced by UNESCO in 1992. Their aim is to promote international cooperation between Universities and networking in key priority areas of UNESCO. There are today about 700 UNESCO Chairs in the world.