The Topicality of Cultural Heritage

Research focus

- What is supposedly common cultural heritage in the Baltic Sea region?

- Who defines what cultural heritage is? Is the definition of cultural heritage a question of power?

- Does cultural heritage support or block identity and community formation in the Baltic Sea region? Does cultural heritage constribute to future structure development in the region?

- How can we transform the idea of the presence of cultural heritage into ressources for research and dissemination? Do digital approaches help?


Claiming Heritage - Barcamp

The working group 2020 of ICOMOS Germany invited to its first Barcamp. The meeting, organized in cooperation with the DFG-Graduiertenkolleg 1913 Kulturelle und technische Werte historischer Bauten of the BTU Cottbus-Senftenberg, took place on 05.10.2019 in Berlin. According to the character of a Barcamp, the aim of the organizers of this comparatively new and participative format of a conference was to discuss other topics and fields of actions with regard to the question how to create meaning, acceptance and sustainable art of dealing with a more and more diverse nature of heritage and to bring interested audience and experts of different fields together.

It became obvious already in the introduction round of the well-attended event and within the subsequently presented collection of ideas for thematic sessions how diverse the interests of the participants were. Among others, there emerged questions of subculture, of the overall compatibility of the heritage status and of its usability in urban context, like in the cases of World Heritage sites. However, there appeared also practical questions concerning the preservation of Digital Art, the sustainability of conservation works as well as particular issues of financing options. With regard to these fields of interest, 12 different workshops were organized.  

In one of them, the society of Culture Heirs in Kiel presented its projects which deal with the complex task of communicating the issues of military heritage of the city in educational projects intended for schools.

In the session on transdisciplinary perspectives on heritage, the focus quickly shifted to monument conservation work with modernist monuments. In the discussion, a pladoyer for a stronger theoretical impact and methodical extension of conservation work became apparent, issues which should be accompanied more by publications and public relation works. However, the question of what kind of approaches to cultural heritage beyond conservation and scientific research can be made today, was also touched upon.

In the workshop on digitality it became clear, nevertheless, that the participants were more interested in user-oriented tools such as Wiki-Data which enables in particular small museums to create structured digital collections of their holdings. With regard to the actual question of the session, the funding of long-term maintenance and restoration not only of Digital Art but also of the research data and thus their preservation turned out to be a crucial problem.  

The event provided many suggestions, which are also of interest to the cluster “The Topicality of Cultural Heritage” with regard to its thematic orientation and further networking. Above all, it became apparent that the communication of cultural heritage is often still inadequate, but is, nevertheless, a central concern in terms of its acceptance and identification. New formats need to be found and stakeholders such as various interest groups need to be involved.

Text: Antje Kempe

IFZO @ Cultural Landscape: Content, Perception, Transformation. The Baltic States in European Garden Culture

Conference Report

The Böckler-Mare-Balticum Foundation, in cooperation with the Werner Reimers Foundation (Bad Homburg) and the Latvian Academy of Sciences organized a kick-off conference “Cultural Landscape: Content, Perception, Transformation. The Baltic States in European Garden Culture” which took place in Riga, 14th to 17th September 2019. The aim of the conference was to introduce a new thematic focus by bringing together experts in garden history, monument conservation, art history and history from the different countries in order to gain, on the one hand, an overview of the state of the art and of the research objects, and, on the other, to delineate further research perspectives. The survey of topics and approaches was rather broad, including research on historical gardens as well as contemporary perspectives on perception, use and conservation of garden cultures.

Two lectures delivered an introduction to the topic of the meeting: Igor Šuvajev (Riga) presented philosophical considerations on culture understood as natura naturans and natura naturata in which memory and oblivion are reflected in many ways as layered landscapes. Subsequently, Iris Lauterbach (Munich) showed varied approaches to historical research on gardens and also underlined the research potential of the regions of the present states Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania. Furthermore, she emphazised the important role of historical gardens in the context of the climate change.

Four further lectures took up the historical perspective of gardens. Barbara Werner (Warsaw) introduced the book Various Thoughts on Garden Establishing written by Izabela Czartoryska and showed its influence on the design of gardens in the 19th century like, for instance, Łazienki in Warsaw. The paper by Agnese Bergholde-Wolf (Marburg) was dedicated to Georg Kuphhaldt, the first landscape gardener of Riga, and his vastly different works in this city as well as in the Crimea and finally in Berlin. Cord Planning (Bad Muskau) presented the network of the Baltic noble family Byron and their  new gardens in France and Germany in terms of a productive moment after their abdication, but also as a form of ‘transplantation’ of a Baltic gentry. Deima Katinaitė (Vilnius) spoke about a special kind of a garden cabinet—the so-called Baubly—in the garden of  Dionizas Poška/Dionizy Paszkiewicz as a place for collecting and research of the local history. Assuming a form of a tree trunk, it was literally as well as metaphorically rooted in history. In this way, the role of the garden as space of memory was presented in a broader dimension. Juan Maiste (Tartu) also addressed the historical aspects of memory in his lecture on Alexander von Keyserling.

Giedre Mickunaite (Vilnius) presented past and present of the so-called Bisochomanie as a myth, tracing its transformation from a spectacle of the hunt to environmental issues and animal ethics. Furthermore, she asked how to deal with habitats which are not focused on the human environment. Also Antje Kempe (Greifswald) questioned the value of nature in the context of urbanization as she discussed diverse examples of waterfronts in the process of re-development of industrial and harbour areas around the Baltic sea coast.  

A contemporary perspective also emerged in the comparison of the Soviet and the contemporary urban greening in Latvia in the presentation by Helena Gūtmane (Jelgava). The design of small green spaces based on one’s own initiative and self-organisation proved to be a constant phenomenon. Jens Spanjer also presented with the European Garden Heritage Network (EGHN) a European dimension of the topic such as the temporal intertwinings of historical gardens and contemporary gardens in today’s perception and posed an increasingly important question of management and marketing in this context. Heikki Hanka and Helena Lonkila (Yuvaskyla) saw perception and negotiation processes in their presentation of the study program Cultural Environments at the University of Yuvaskyla as supporting issues of dealing with cultural landscapes. Finally,  Dalia Klajumienė (Vilnius) also reffered to different way of marketing in her comments on the commercial gardening in Vilnius in the 19th century which made a contribution to the process of change from gardening to a universal fashion.

Questions of conservation, safeguarding of historical gardens and buildings and their re-use were also discussed during the organized visits to Sigulda, Turaida, Ungurmuiža, Cesis, Rauna and Alūksne. Likewise, Yannis Kreslin (Stockholm) in his adequate summary of the conference once again emphasized the problem of the transformation of nature and referred above all to the notion of history as a garden.

The contributions showed that garden art plays an important role in the cultural heritage of the Baltic countries. However, this issue is still marginalized within art historical research. Additionally, current perspectives on the use of historical sites are too often dominated by national and economic interests which have a strong impact on the transfer of cultural objects through times and seem to define how the past is being produced by current trends and fashions, all these issues being relevant research topics of the cluster “The Topicality of Cultural Heritage”.

Text: Antje Kempe


List of workshops of the "Topicality of Cultural Heritage" cluster