2021 Edition: Ancient heritage & education

Over the last decades, humankind has been dramatically stripped of its material heritage. From looting, to climate change, to functional destructions of ancient sites, our past is under heavy threat. The drive to protect cultural heritage during the post-WW II period has come to an end: new types of warfare as well as politics have put artefacts and archaeological sites at the heart of armed conflict and made them into weapons. The guardians of heritage, museums and educational institutions, have shifted their priorities. In museums this is away from safeguarding collections to using them for politically and ideologically engaged narratives of the past and the present. Museum visitors and other ‘consumers’ of heritage, however, are declining in numbers. In education, archaeology has never had a strong foothold. Arguably, this is an issue that needs redress, both from a learning and a heritage point of view.
This course explores the history of cultural heritage from the roots of collecting in antiquity, through the first public collections in the 18th century until the latest UNESCO conventions. It will go into questions like: is the idea of a (universal) museum valid also in the present and future? Do museums protect our common heritage in difficult times, or do they violate cultural human rights? Is spending resources on archaeological and heritage education defensible in these times of financial restraint? Why would children even need to learn about archaeology and antiquity? Do people mind heritage being lost, and if not, can we, and should we, engage the public in these issues? What responsibilities do museums, schools or universities have in this respect?