Conflict, cultural heritage and the new roles of the museum in and around Europe

Conflict dynamics worldwide have shifted from state-on-state conflicts organized around the geopolitics of national borders and territories, to increasingly focusing on cultural references and identity politics orientated towards cultural values. This shift has emphasized cultural heritage’s role as a political, ideological and strategic symbol of identity in conflicts around the globe. From decolonization and social justice to terror attacks, looting of cultural property as well as the strategical use and targeting of cultural heritage in armed conflict worldwide, cultural heritage has become the material symbol of cultural references and identity politics.

European cultural heritage institutions and museums are faced with challenges relating not only to their own role as guardians of a cultural heritage that is sometimes based on colonial exploitation and looting, but also with regard to their position towards targeted destruction and plundering of cultural heritage in conflicts around the globe, including the Balkans in the 1990s, the Middle East and most recently Ukraine.

This open one-day seminar will explore the role of cultural heritage in conflicts in and around Europe and the new role of museums in this.


10.15 Welcome – cultural heritage, conflict and identity politics (Tea S. Andersen, KU, ToRS)
10.30 Marie E.B. Christensen (KU, ToRS): Museum actors’ perspectives on involvement in protection of cultural heritage in armed conflict

Terne Thorsen (KU, IKK): ISIS and contemporary iconoclasm

Vinni Nørskov (Aarhus University): Classical cultural heritage in European identity discourses
12.00 Lunch break
13.15 Randi Marselis (RUC): Post-colonial cultural heritage

Anne Folke Henningsen (KU, Saxo): European museums and the colonial past
14.15 Short break, coffee and cake
14.30 Joanne Dingwall McCafferty (KU, ToRS): UNESCO, conflict, and the Middle East

Fanar Haddad (KU, ToRS): Symbol politics, heritage and conflict in the Middle East

Sam Hardy (Norwegian Institute for Cultural Heritage Research): The looting, trafficking, policing and propaganda in the war in Ukraine.
16.30 Mads Daugbjerg (Aarhus University): Fighting the American Civil War Again: Heritage, Unrest and Repetition in Gettysburg

Frederik Rosén (KU, ToRS): Securitization of cultural heritage
17.30 Closing discussion