Cultural heritage is not only about the past and the present, to an equal extent it is about the future. This is the point of departure for the newly-published book “Cultural Heritage and the Future”. The book presents arguments for the need for an increased “Futures Literacy” among those who work with cultural heritage. Editors are Cornelius Holtorf and Anders Högberg, professors of archaeology at Linnaeus University, and both are among the authors, too.
What cultural heritage do we pass on? To what use? How can we decide what is good for future generations? Within the growing research field of “Heritage Futures” these are key questions. Heritage Futures focus on how today’s management of cultural heritage relates to the future, and how different perceptions of the future affect how we plan for our cultural heritage today.
“We have been working with cultural heritage and future questions for almost a decade. We introduced our first ideas on Heritage Futures at an international conference in 2012. This book is a result of the work that we initiated at that time”, says Anders Högberg.
Cultural heritage and the future are linked together
The book is a collection of texts in which a number of researchers from all over the world give examples of how cultural heritage and the future are closely connected. One chapter deals with the disposal of nuclear waste in the USA and Sweden. It focuses on how we can communicate to future generations where we have buried radioactive waste. Another chapter is about the Svalbard Global Seed Vault, a gene bank in which seed samples from the whole world are stored for the future.
“The concept of cultural heritage refers to what reminds, or will remind, people of the past. This can be in either material or immaterial form, like, for instance, objects, the environment, skills, and traditions. Cultural heritage can have different values, ranging from something that you would prefer to stay away from, like nuclear waste, to something that is highly appreciated”, says Cornelius Holtorf.
“The most important message of the book is that cultural heritage is as much about the future as it is about the past and the present”, Holtorf adds.
A need for an increased “Futures Literacy”
The authors believe that “Futures Literacy” should increase within the cultural heritage sector, among, for instance, academics, students and professionals working within the field. It is about understanding the role of the future in what they do, and being able to prepare society for future changes. It also about being able to safeguard the cultural heritage that they believe will provide most benefit.
“Enhanced ‘Futures Literacy’ within our sector will make it easier to contribute to meeting the Sustainable Development Goals. And, as a result, make it easier for the cultural heritage sector to contribute to creating a better world”, Holtorf concludes.
About the UNSECO Chair
In 2017, Linnaeus University was awarded a UNESCO Chair on Heritage Futures. The Chair is one of eight UNESCO Chairs in Sweden, and the only one within the cultural sector.
“As part of the work of the UNESCO Chair, we want to support active professionals within the cultural heritage sector by developing professional strategies for understanding and managing how cultural heritage and the future are connected. Our research provides support to development of socially, ecologically, economically, and culturally sustainable societies for the benefit of future generations”, says Cornelius Holtorf.
The book cover
The picture shown is a montage of the planned nuclear waste storage facility at Söderviken in Forsmark, above and below earth as seen from south-east.