On September 22 – 23, 2016 the Saxo Institute at Copenhagen University invited scholars from fields of heritage, archaeology, social sciences, fine arts and anthropology for a conference entitled, ‘On the Trace.’ Lectures and discussions focused on significant objects and places, and our relationship to the continued and/or diminishing traces they leave behind. Invited speakers addressed this topic through a variety of examples such as: the heritagization of a presumably failed fission nuclear research site; the objects collected from survivors of a Nazi internment camp; and the ritual of children in several Scandinavian countries whereby they forfeit their pacifiers to specific communal trees as a childhood rite of passage.
On September 26, 2016, Stockholm University hosted a day of lectures on the topic, ‘Reframing Heritage as Movement.’ Representative scholars and professionals from the field of historic preservation and heritage were present to speak about how objects and places have shifted meaning and significance over time, and how the field of heritage can diversify and respond to shifting contexts.
While clearly diverse, the lectures at each of these conferences brought up discussions that revolved around several key questions:
Is heritage overly obsessed with the object/tangible and should we (and can we) shift focus away from the object?
How can people better illustrate alternative histories? What happens with conflicting histories as we move forward?
How can we use traces to address the past such that it helps to create stronger, more resilient, more diverse and inclusive futures?
These questions are overwhelmingly complex. Traces/histories are experienced in many different ways and the speakers who presented at these conferences have pulled on a number of fascinating sources to frame their discussions. As I begin to pour through these sources and mull over my own understanding of the issues presented, these are initial reflections on the topics presented at these conferences.
Continue reading “The Role of the Object within Preservation”