Looking at Heritage from an Environmental Humanities Perspectives -The International Conference on ‘History, Memory, and Heritage in the Age of Ecological Crisis’-

27 Jun 2024

WHIPIC and Sogang University's Critical Global Studies Institute co-organised an international conference on June 13th and 14th under the title of 'History, Memory, and Heritage in the Age of Ecological Crisis.' This conference took plaice both on-site and online, and with the keyword 'environmental humanities.' Researchers from diverse fields, including history, literature, anthropology, geography, archaeology, heritage studies, and memory studies gave fruitful presentations and had cross-disciplinary discussions during the two days.

Group photo of invited speakers and discussants at the international conference

On the first day, six researchers emphasised the importance of environmental humanities perspectives through the following presentations:

●Exposing Extraction and Extinction as Difficult Cultural Heritage (Professor Dolly Jørgensen, University of Stavanger)

● Absence, Amnesia, and Activism: Tracing Contours of Environmental Harms, Memory, and Heritage (Professor Elizabeth Kryder-Reid, Indiana University Indianapolis)

● Mnemonic Ecologies: Memory and Nature Conservation in Post-Violent Landscapes (Professor Sonja K. Pieck, Bates College)

● Soak or Sponge? Environmental Humanities and the Monsoon City in Anthropocene Asia (Professor Rohan D’Souza, Kyoto University)

● Conservationist Fictions: Literary Memory and Environmental Policy in Latin America (Professor Victoria Saramago, University of Chicago)

● Politics of Industrial Pasts in East Asia: Unravelling Entangled Histories of the Environment and Development (Professor Sang-Hyun Kim, Critical Global Studies Institute, Sogang University) of Development and Environment (Professor Sang-Hyun Kim, Sogang University)

Just as extinct animals and damaged natural environments cannot tell their own stories, heritage can only convey its past, present, and future through human interpretation. This conference offered a valuable opportunity to explore heritage from environmental humanities perspectives and to consider the future direction of WHIPIC in interpreting and presenting heritage.

Presentation on the second day of the international conference

The second day featured presentations by five experts in heritage interpretation, conservation, management, and policy practice:

● Interpretation as a Challenging Perspective Beyond Material Conservation in World Heritage System (Sujeong Lee, Head of the Research and Development Office of WHIPIC)

● Interpretation Strategies – Connecting People and Place: Methodology and Case Studies (Nigel Mills, Consultant, Nigel Mills Heritage)

● A Systems-based Approach to Heritage Interpretation in the Context of Altered Communication Models and Changing Heritage Practices (Matthias Ripp, Senior Heritage Manager, Old Town of Regensburg with Stadtamhof)

● The Interpretive Dimension of Sustainable Heritage Management: Insights from the World Heritage cities of Florence and Edinburgh (Francesca Giliberto, Research Fellow, University of Leeds)

● Making a Purposeful Difference on Visitors’ Experience, Attitude and Behavior Through Interpretation: What Research has or has not Shown About Interpretation’s Impact (Professor Jinhyung Lee, Mokpo National University)

Artificial divisions such as culture-nature and tangible-intangible were prominent in the existing World Heritage system. However, recent trends in World Heritage emphasise an integrated understanding that does not distinguish between culture and nature or tangible and intangible aspects. The presentations examined communication methods and case studies towards this integration and explored diverse narratives of heritage, sharing a vision for heritage interpretation and presentation among participants.

This international conference provided an opportunity to delve into heritage from the perspective of environmental humanities, a field gaining new attention amidst the climate crisis. As heritage coexists with the environment and communities, it is crucial to envision a sustainable future for heritage. WHIPIC will continue to engage with stakeholders to shape the direction of heritage interpretation and presentation in the era of the climate crisis.


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