WHAT IS HERITAGE RESEARCH?
In the broadest sense of the word, cultural heritage can point to all circumstances in the past that have formed the present. Hence all kinds of historical and cultural research are potentially relevant. Everything old is, however, not regarded or protected as part of the cultural heritage. There are actions and procedures in which some conditions and artifacts are designated as more important and valuable then others, and hence more worthy of protection, education and research. At the center of our mapping of heritage research are projects that examine the very process through which heritage is recognized as such. The ambition is to chart this process for publicly financed research carried out at universities and museums.
Included within the broader examination by the project falls the “borderline activities” which mean the induction of new material into the expanding field of institutional heritage. At the same time while other parts are marginalized. In other words, the dynamics of creating institutional heritage. Expanding from traditional archaeological and historical monuments, heritage today recognizes both material evidence of more aspects of human life and immaterial aspects of society as increasingly relevant. The dynamics and consequences of this expansion in understanding the relevance of the past, decisions as to what is to be preserved and used, for what purpose and by whom are topics at the heart of debates today. The ambition is here to cover dominant trends that change the anatomy and perception of institutional heritage, but not all activities that contribute to this dynamic.
We will not be able to cover all relevant research on how to improve conservation, on new digital technologies that might be applicable, and on discoveries that in our minds might or could in the future be incorporated into the canon of heritage. Our ambition is through research to follow the studies that identify themselves as part of the field often referred to as critical heritage studies and to look for keywords and themes in the wider fields that study uses of the past and identity politics, regardless of the discipline.
Hence this mapping contributes both to trans-disciplinary, trans-sectorial networking and to the facilitation of a closer relationship between both cultural and political debate and practices of heritage conservation, preservation and utilization.
This work may be seen as a reexamination of how the field has expanded and thrived nearly ten years after the latest national conference gathering active researchers (See Peter Aronsson & Magdalena Hillström, (ed.). 2005. Kulturarvens dynamik. Det institutionella kulturarvets förändringar. Norrköping.)