Two public lectures coming up in September

On Sept. 5, 2019 at 14.00-18.00, Think Lounge, in Tiedekulma (second floor). Open to all.

Think Lounge
Think Lounge space in the University of Helsinki’s Think Corner. Image from University of Helsinki

Special presentations from Dr James Nisbet, Associate Professor at University of California, Irvine, USA and Dr Catherine Laws, Reader in Music at the University of York, UK.  This event is co-organized with the 3D3 Doctoral programme of Falmouth University, Plymouth University and University of Western England, who are in Helsinki for the week. The event complements the Doctoral Programme in History and Cultural Heritage annual Summer School, but is open to all.

James Nisbet is an art historian whose research addresses contemporary art, theory, and criticism, with a particular focus on cultural issues on ecology and environmental history. He received his PhD in Art History from Stanford University in 2011, and is currently Associate Professor at the University of California, Irvine in the Department of Art History and PhD Program in Visual Studies. His first book, Ecologies, Environments, and Energy Systems in Art of the 1960s and 1970s, was published by MIT Press in 2014. Recent essays have taken up more contemporary environmental politics, as well as tracing the deeper roots of scientific theories of energy within the history of photography. His writing has appeared in publications including American Art, Artforum, Art Bulletin, Art Journal, Grey Room, Modernism/modernity, Photography and Culture, and X-TRA, in addition to many edited volumes and catalogues. Nisbet’s research has been supported by fellowships from the Getty Research Institute, Harry Ransom Center, Georgia O’Keeffe Research Center, and Dumbarton Oaks. His talk examines the wide-ranging concept of energy and its intersection with contemporary visual art.

Catherine Laws is Reader in Music at the University of York, UK, and a Senior Artistic Research Fellow at the Orpheus Institute, Ghent. As a pianist Catherine specializes in contemporary music, working collaboratively with composers and often drawing other artists, especially theatre and film makers, into her projects. Her artistic research is focused variously on processes of embodiment, subjectivity and collaboration in contemporary performance practices. She currently leads the research cluster ‘Performance, Subjectivity and Experimentation’ at the Orpheus Institute, exploring how subjectivity is produced through performance practices associated with new music: the co-authored book Voices Bodies Practices: Performing Musical Subjectivities (Leuven University Press, 2019) is one of the outcomes of this research and includes extended discussion of her recent multimedia performance piece, ‘Player Piano’. Catherine’s research in the field of word-and-music studies examines the relationship between music, language and meaning, focusing especially on Samuel Beckett and composers’ responses to his work. Her book, Headaches Among the Overtones: Music in Beckett/ Beckett in Music, came out in 2013.

Young World Heritage professionals shared experiences and discussed future challenges in Baku

Oona Simolin participated in the Young World Heritage Professionals Forum in Baku, Azerbaijan, from 24 June to 2 July 2019. The 1.5-week forum had 30 participants all over the globe. Read more on Oona’s experiences on the Forum and insights on the challenges of World Heritage.

In what context do we usually hear about World Heritage? Probably when planning holidays and searching for things to see and do in your destination. We check Tripadvisor or even read a city guide and there it is: one of the main attractions is described as being on the Wold Heritage list. Being recognized by an international organization like UNESCO is like a certificate for heritage saying, “this is worth seeing”.

Despite this popular use, many are not familiar with the process through which the sites actually get on the list. I was really lucky to be able to get a first-hand experience on this process in July when I attended the World Heritage Young Professionals organized in Baku, Azerbaijan in conjunction with the World Heritage Committee session.

Baku
The Old City of Baku Icheri Sheher was the first Azerbaijani property to be inscribed on the World Heritage list in 2000. The Old City is architecturally distinct from the newer parts of Baku. Image by Oona Simolin

The forum consisted mostly of site visits, lectures and discussions. Throughout the forum, more experienced World Heritage professionals generously shared their experiences and insights on World Heritage under the subtitle “Local insights for global challenges”. During the last few days of the Forum, we had the opportunity to attend the Committee meeting. There we delivered a declaration that reflects our group’s understanding about the issues that World Heritage community could work with to become more inclusive. The declaration as well as a video documenting the forum is available on UNESCO’s website (https://whc.unesco.org/en/activities/958).

Becoming part of the World Heritage community

Maiden Tower
The Maiden Tower is one of the UNESCO inscribed monuments of the Old Town and a symbol for whole Baku. According to UNESCO, the earlier structures of the tower date back to the 7th or 6th century BC. Image by Oona Simolin

Though the practical outcome of the forum was the aforementioned declaration (and a global active network of young professionals), one of the main outcomes for me was to hear insights from the Committee sessions and nomination processes as well as practical site management experiences from all over the globe. Learning about the practical dimension of cultural policy and site management processes definitely give new perspectives to my current work as a doctoral candidate. When you are using most of your days with books, your research materials and a writing software, it is rewarding to hear stories from people who approach World Heritage from different perspectives in their daily work.

Moreover, I felt an important part of the forum was to immerse ourselves in the procedures and discourses of World Heritage. We pondered what authenticity and integrity mean in the context of different sites and discussed about the values and attributes attached to the places we saw. Our training in the so-called UNESCO-ese didn’t end here: we also simulated the Committee meeting before attending the actual Committee meeting. The goal of the full-day simulation was to understand the process through which the Committee’s decisions are made. Valdimar Hafstein, who has worked extensively with intangible heritage in UNESCO, describes UNESCO’s high-level sessions as metafolklore, a performance with its own scripts . Based on this experience and as a trained folklorist, I recognize this viewpoint. The simulation, as well as drafting the declaration, can be regarded as initiatives to ‘acculturate’ us young professionals to this global (meta)heritage community.

One of the exercises was a World Heritage Committee session simulation where we discussed whether the imaginary site of the Magic Lands should be inscribed on the List of World Heritage in Danger. Image by Oona Simolin

Current challenges for World Heritage

The intensive forum gave us no illusion about the future of the World Heritage Convention: there are several prevalent challenges.  In few words, the core of 1972 Convention Concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage (‘the World Heritage Convention’) and UNESCO as an organization have been to protect heritage globally and therefore to nourish respect and peace between people. Today the ever-growing World Heritage list already has 1,121 properties and it has run into some fundamental questions. Can the listing continue endlessly? Are the goals of heritage protection and peacebuilding still there or have they been lost somewhere on the way?

One of the most discussed challenges of the World Heritage initiative is tourism. It is indeed a challenge for conservation and environment. Moreover, uncontrolled or poorly managed tourism may affect the local communities and their cultures in many ways and even harm the income of the local residents. However, several sites have done great work in planning and managing tourism, predicting trends, limiting or controlling access to certain places and establishing partnerships and networks.

One of the site visits was made to Lahij, a village whose tradition in copper craftsmanship has been inscribed on the UNESCO Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. Having a photo break on the way. Image by Oona Simolin

During our lectures, we also recognized another tricky challenge, the question concerning professionalism and expertise. In the case of World Heritage, I see this challenge as something coming from three directions. Firstly, the status of heritage expertise has changed within the World Heritage Committee. As stated in the convention text, the representatives in the Committee used to be trained experts in the field of heritage. Lecturers in the forum illustrated how this changed: today the delegations coming from the States Parties include more professionals from other fields. This illustrates how the political meaning and economic interests related to World Heritage have become more prevalent. The critiques say that this has led to the situation where the outstanding universal value and the ten criteria for the inscription – the factors that should be the arguments for inscription – are overlooked and the decisions may be affected more by other things.

The heritage of Baku has many layers and has been influenced by Eastern and Western cultures. This building used to have text in Arabic but it was covered with a star during the Soviet era. Image by Oona Simolin.

On the other hand, the whole concept of outstanding universal value has been challenged as an elitist notion that gives heritage experts the priority to classify, evaluate and valorise heritage from above. From the critical viewpoint the search for universally outstanding heritage does not make sense: the importance and values of heritage should be evaluated from the viewpoint of the groups to whom it belongs. Furthermore, the idea of universal values has been regarded as inherently Western which has been reflected in the World Heritage list – just have a look on the spatial distribution of the inscribed properties (https://whc.unesco.org/en/interactive-map/). To respond, UNESCO has worked with the concepts like intangible heritage and historic urban landscape that have served as ways to take new paths in the implementation of the Convention.

Finally, the challenge for World Heritage and all other experts comes from the changing society where the status of experts is increasingly questioned. As discussed in the forum, the future heritage specialist should be ready to argument the importance of their work and be transparent about the positive and negative impacts their actions might have on the communities. I think that listening to the aforementioned critical voices and grass-root communities as well as organisations are also necessary qualities for the future professionals working with World Heritage.

The natural heritage of Azerbaijan includes mud volcanoes. This volcano is located on the way to the Gobustan Rock Art Cultural Landscape which is also inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List. Image by Oona Simolin

 

 

Heritage students! Help doctoral research with this survey

By Annemarie Willems

My name is Annemarie Willems and I am doing my PhD research at the University of Helsinki. In order to get an idea about experiences and expectations of students doing a higher education program in heritage related studies, or Heritage Management Education (e.g. archaeology, heritage management, critical heritage studies,) and to analyze the relationship between students’ expectations, learning outcomes and real needs of Heritage Management (HM) practice I would be grateful if you would fill out this questionnaire: https://forms.gle/skZ8AtRxiRasUai68

All information collected in the survey will be treated confidentially. Individual survey respondents cannot be identified in any report of the results.

Contact: Annemarie.willems @ helsinki.fi

Thank you for your assistance!

 

 

Investigating and Policing Antiquities Trafficking and Forgery in a Digital Age

Researchers at the University of Helsinki are involved with a workshop series funded by the Nordic Research Councils, titled Changing Hands, Changing Meanings: Researching Cultural Heritage Trafficking in the Nordic Region. 

The first of these workshops, focusing on the impact of digitization on both research of the illicit antiquities trade, and also the process of illicit trade itself, took place at Stockholm University and featured an impressive lineup of specialists, researchers and practitioners from the Nordic region, North America and Australia.

Although some of the issues discussed were too sensitive to share over social media, it is possible to capture much of the debate, bother during and since the workshop, by following the #kulturkrim hashtag on Twitter.

Group photo
Some of the participants at the Stockholm University workshop

The workshop organizers come from Stockholm University, University of Turku, University of Agder and University of Oslo in addition to the University of Helsinki. The next workshops of the series, both scheduled for 2020, will take place at University of Agder in Norway, and the University of Helsinki.

One-off course running in May – Archaeological Heritage Management: Global and Local Perspectives

In this one-off course, for University of Helsinki students enrolled in the KUMA programme, for exchange students and for students through the Open University, students will become familiarized with some of the key issues that archaeological heritage management management practitioners have to consider in their everyday work. The course code-shares with Cultural Heritage Studies and Archaeology, through the codes KUMA-KP505 and KUMA-AR311. Many of the course’s lectures and seminars will be led by Dr George Smith who will be visiting the University of Helsinki from the USA through the Fulbright Specialist Program.

George Smith

The learning goals are as follow:

– To assess critically the multiple considerations and needs that affect decisions about archaeological and cultural heritage management

– To become familiar with international case studies and perspectives, and their impact on the development of archaeological heritage management as an applied discipline

– To develop the tools needed to create an effective means of evaluating heritage impact.

Dr. George S. Smith, Florida State University, is an archaeologist specializing in public archaeology and cultural heritage management. He was Associate Director at the Southeast Archeological Center, worked for the Archeological Assistance Division of the National Park Service, was a Research Associate in Archaeology and Curator of Archaeology (Acting) at the University of Alaska Museum, and was an archaeologist with the Cooperative Park Studies Unit, Anthropology and Historic Preservation at the University of Alaska.

He has worked with universities in the United States, the UK, Italy, the Netherlands and China with respect to archaeology and heritage. AMong many workshops and training that he has organized or been involved with, he worked with a consortium through Indiana University to provide cultural heritage management training in Kyrgyzstan. He was a member of US/ICOMOS serving as an expert member on the International Committee on Archaeological Heritage Management and was an associate scholar with the Intellectual Property Issues in Cultural Heritage: Theory, Practice, Policy, and Ethics project at Simon Fraser University in Canada. He was co-editor for the Cultural Heritage Management section of the Encyclopedia of Global Archaeology. 

Books

Yu, Pei-Lin, Chen Shen and George S. Smith (eds). 2018 Relevance and Application of Heritage in Contemporary Society. Routledge, New York.

Messenger, Phyllis Mauch and George S. Smith (eds.) 2010 Cultural Heritage Management: A Global Perspective.  University Press of Florida, Gainesville, Florida.

Smith, George S., Phyllis Mauch. Messenger, and Hilary A. Soderland (eds.) 2010  Heritage Values in Contemporary Society. Left Coast Press, Walnut Creek, California.

Bender, Susan J. and George S. Smith (eds.) 2000 Teaching Archaeology in the 21st Century.  Special Report, Society for American Archaeology. Washington DC.

Smith, George S. and John E. Ehrenhard (eds.) 1991 Protecting the Past.  CRC Press, Boca Raton, Florida.

Finnish Cultural Foundation gives grant to doctoral student Oona Simolin

By Oona Simolin, Department of Cultures

In the end of January, I got to know that I will receive a one-year grant for my doctoral research from the Finnish Cultural Foundation central fund. The foundation receives thousands of high-quality applications, so I am honoured to receive funding for my PhD.

Oona Simolin

My grant period starts in March 2019 and lasts for 12 months. In my PhD project, I am interested in guided tours organised in three UNESCO World Heritage Sites. In other words, I am interested in the heritage interpretation delivered in these sites. Narration, stories and history, communicational methods and interaction create a set of emotional, educational and experiential elements that ultimately form the heritage experience. My main questions are: What kind of emotions, meanings and interpretations do guided tours suggest to the participants? How do the participants actually feel during and after the tour, and how do they understand the significance of the site?

To find answers, I have already collected some materials in Suomenlinna Fortress. During spring 2019, you will find me observing even more guided tours and interviewing tour participants. To capture different sides of the tours, my materials include also photos and location data. Finishing the article on Suomenlinna is my first big milestone this year, but I will also move on to my next research site, Tallinn Old Town. I am really looking forward how the Northern European history is told on the other side of the bay!

After quite many grant applications, I am thrilled to focus only on heritage research for some time. I also hope that each grant is a sign that heritage studies is becoming more recognized and that even more heritage researchers are lucky to find funding in the future.

EXHIBITION: Objects of Attention. Experiments with Knowledge in the State Museum

The Estonian Museum of Applied Art and Design opens the 2019 programme with the exhibition “Objects of Attention”, curated by anthropologist Francisco Martínez. 

In this exhibition, ordinary things are revised into objects of attention. Ten artists have been invited to reflect on the capacity of artefacts to spark political concern and raise awareness of actual social challenges. Through the engagement of these artists with and through the expressive (material, design, functional, indexical) potential of things, everyday items have been transformed into devices for thinking about the contemporary — through topics such as migration, gender, environmental sustainability, digital rubbish, obsession with changes, and the role of humans in an automated world. The project is intended to transgress conventional ways of making, analysing, and representing things, exploring alternatives ways of producing knowledge. Also, it contributes to debates about the relationship of an artwork to its society, matters of aura and intentionality, the intrinsic properties of artefacts, as well as exploring the intersections from which the dialogue between contemporary art, anthropology, design, and museum studies can be brought forward. 

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Francisco Martínez is a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Helsinki and part of the editorial team of the Anthropological Journal of European Cultures. In 2018, he was awarded with the Early Career Prize of the European Association of Social Anthropology for his book Remains of the Soviet Past in Estonia. Martinez’ reflection upon material culture and his way of combining contemporary art and anthropology are intriguing for the Estonian Museum of Applied Art and Design, and significantly open the scope and practice in the field. 

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Artists: Jussi Kivi, Laura Kuusk, Nino Kvrivishvili, Camille Laurelli, Eleonore de Montesquiou, Eva Mustonen, Emeli Theander, Timo Toots, Kirill Tulin, and Varvara & Mar 

Graphic Designer: Ott Kagovere 

Architecture Designer: Hannes Praks  

The exhibition is open: 12.01-17.03.2019 

Public Programme of the exhibition: “Experiments with Knowledge” 

The public programme includes a performance at the opening of the exhibition; a research seminar with lectures and artists talks; two workshops and several guided tours in English and Estonian. A key proposition behind “Experiments with Knowledge” is that museums can be thought as places where things can happen and different participants can share experimental ways to connect their capacities together. In this light, the diverse events scheduled are not organised to know more, but to know differently and access to alternative forms of knowledge.  

12.01.2019 Research Seminar 

Moderator: Francisco Martínez 

Participants: Eeva Berglund, Derek Holzer, Roomet Jakapi, Ott Kagovere, Jussi Kivi, Mihkel Kleis, Nino Kvrivishvili, Laura Kuusk, Camille Laurelli, Patrick Laviolette, Eleonor de Montesquiou, Eva Mustonen, Hannes Praks, Kirill Tulin, Timo Toots, Varvara & Mar 

Practical workshops: 

Saturday, 19 of January: Timo Toots / working with floppy disks. 

Saturday, 16 of February: Varvara Guljajeva (from artist duo Varvara & Mar) / working with data cans. 

Guided tours: Two tours by the curator in English (19 January and 16 of March) and in Estonian (16 February). 

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The exhibition is supported by: Cultural Endowment of Estonia, Finnish Institute in Estonia and the University of Helsinki 

 

New publications from Cultural Heritage Studies

New peer reviewed articles have recently been published featuring researchers from Cultural Heritage Studies at the University of Helsinki.

In “Asset, Burden, Cultybraggan. Community Site Ownership in a Scottish Village“, Suzie Thomas and Iain Banks (University of Glasgow) write about their ethnographic and public archaeology research at a former Prisoner of War camp in central Scotland and discuss the challenges faced by the local village, who just over a decade ago elected to buy the site from the UK Ministry of Defense. The article is open access.

Fool’s Gold? A critical assessment of sources of data on heritage crime” by Louise Grove (Loughborough University), Suzie Thomas and Adam Daubney (Portable Antiquities Scheme and Lincolnshire County Council) is a conceptual paper discussing the limitations and opportunities for current heritage crime research in the UK based on the data available. They consider among other things the idea of the so-called ‘dark figure’ in crime (the crimes that take place but go unreported and hence unknown), and how this concept may affect what we know about heritage crime.

Full references:

Grove, Louise, Suzie Thomas, and Adam Daubney. 2018. “Fool’s gold? A critical assessment of sources of data on heritage crime.” Disaster Prevention and Management: An International Journal (online first) https://doi.org/10.1108/DPM-07-2018-0232
Thomas, Suzie, and Iain Banks. 2018. “Asset, burden, Cultybraggan. Community site ownership in a Scottish village.” Journal of Community Archaeology & Heritage (online first) https://doi.org/10.1080/20518196.2018.1548223

Cultural Heritage research from Helsinki discussed recently with UK doctoral researchers

Falmouth harbour – chilly in November but still beautiful.

On Friday 23 November Suzie Thomas spoke as Keynote at a residential weekend for doctoral researchers from Falmouth University, the University of Plymouth and the University of Western England.

The weekend, for 3D3 researchers (coming from various arts and heritage backgrounds and using a vast range of digital, creative and participatory approaches in their research and practices) funded by the UK’s Arts and Humanities Research Council, was an opening event for recently started researchers on the programme. It took place at the Penryn campus of Falmouth University in Cornwall, England.

Thomas talked about Lapland’s Dark Heritage, a recently completed Academy of Finland collaboration between the University of Helsinki and University of Oulu. The project drew on a number of theories and methodological approaches that spanned many disciplines including archaeology, ethnology, cultural heritage studies, crowdsourcing methods and community engagement.

The weekend went very well, and there are hopes that the 3D3 students and their supervisors can visit Finland in the future!

NOS-HS Workshop grant awarded to Cultural Heritage and Cultural Property researchers in the Nordics

A research team comprised of Nordic-based have been awarded a workshop grant from NOS-HS (The Joint Committee for Nordic research councils in the Humanities and Social Sciences) to organize a series of three workshops on the theme of “Changing Hands, Changed Concerns: Research on Illegal Trade in Cultural Heritage in the Nordic Region” (in Swedish: kiftande Händer, Förändrade Betydelser: Forskning om Illegal Handel med Kulturarv i Norden).  As reported on the Working with Cultural Objects and Manuscripts blog, it will fund three workshops over two years in Stockholm, Oslo/Kristiansand and Helsinki, bringing together scholars and practitioners from the Nordic region and beyond.

Figure from Palmyra in the Museum of Cultural History, Oslo, wearing a black ribbon in mourning of recent events. Phpto by Suzie Thomas.

In the organizing team are Dr. Damien Huffer (Stockholm University), Prof. Suzie Thomas (University of Helsinki), Dr. Rick Bonnie (University of Helsinki), Prof. Visa Immonen (University of Turku) and Dr. Josephine Munch Rasmussen (Universities of Agder and Oslo).