2019 Edition: Ancient heritage and the ideology of museum culture

Over the last decades, humankind has been dramatically stripped of its past. From looting all over the world to systematic destructions of ancient sites, our past is under heavy threat. The drive to protect cultural heritage that marked the post-WW II period has come to an end: new types of warfare have put the artefacts and archaeological sites of antiquity at the heart of armed conflict and made them into weapons. Meanwhile, the guardians of heritage, museums and other institutions, are shifting their priorities. In many cases this is away from safeguarding collections to using them for politically and ideologically engaged narratives of the past and the present.
This course explores the history of (ancient) cultural heritage from the first public collections in the 18th century until the latest UNESCO and EU treaties. It will go into questions like: where did the idea of a universal museum come from? Is this a valid idea also in the present and future? Do museums protect our common heritage in difficult times, or do they violate cultural human rights? Can ideological engagement of museums solve impositions on these cultural human rights? 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? Do we even need museums and heritage?
The course begins with a grounding in existing studies and research methods used to investigate these questions, after which students will put the answers they have found into practice. Besides the history and meaning of collecting, and the threats to and protection of heritage, and many ethical surrounding it, students will analyse exhibition techniques, and marketing, entertainment and education strategies used by museums. The course will also host an international seminar on the ways in which heritage is publicized from scholarship to wider audiences. Students will help organize this seminar and take part as speakers.