Cultural heritage

En gammel tilhenger som innholder gule blomster og gammel elektronikk.

Cultural heritage is a term which is currently used a lot and it is often portrayed as being important and a good thing. So what is it actually?

How is cultural heritage created, used and managed in our day and age, and how does it work? Cultural heritage and cultural monuments are the result of interactions between people and their surroundings, and between people. Their importance, context and consequences are covered by research, including research on cultural artefacts. This broader aspect of research on cultural heritage has emerged from the new social, cultural and economic roles being played by cultural heritage in social development.

This research group will investigate issues relating to the new roles being played by cultural heritage in social development and the relationship between cultural heritage and other contemporary phenomena, as well as future challenges. Research on cultural heritage will comprise such research on cultural and social phenomena which impact on the present and which derive their importance and legitimacy from the past. Relevant topics are as follows:

  • cultural heritage as a phenomenon and aspect of society (its participants, roles and institutions)
  • cultural heritage policy and democracy
  • cultural heritage, ideology and nation-building
  • world heritage and local communities
  • industrial cultural heritage
  • cultural landscapes
  • intangible cultural heritage
  • cultural heritage and integration
  • cultural heritage and childhood
  • cultural heritage and gender
  • cultural heritage, bodies and materiality
  • cultural monuments, conservation and usage

This field of research is divided into two parts: 1) use of cultural heritage and 2) cultural heritage policy. Both these include questions associated with central power and politics, including cultural heritage policy which comes under general cultural policy. The research group’s contribution shall be to deliver sound, independent critical research about various aspects of cultural heritage in use and cultural heritage policy, for the benefit of the field and policy.


Research disciplines

The researchers in this group possess a broad, often interdisciplinary approach to cultural heritage studies, primarily derived from interpretative disciplines relating to humanities and social sciences, such as history and cultural history, archaeology, human geography, cultural studies, sociology, social anthropology, history of religion, philosophy, musicology, ethnology, history of art and linguistic studies, etc. Also represented are researchers from the fields of geology, health studies, economics and teacher training studies.

Partners and networks

The researchers associated with this research group have a comprehensive national and international research network linked to current research projects, both individually and in small groups. Some of the large networks which address this topic include COST Action IS1007 Investigating Cultural Sustainability and Nordic and international networks for cultural policy research, with their associated journals. The research group will cooperate with the Norwegian sub-group, the Association of Critical Heritage Studies (ACH), in which the NIKU (Norwegian Institute for Cultural Heritage Research), the NTNU (Norwegian University of Science and Technology) and the UiB (University of Bergen) are key participants.

The researchers associated with this research group cooperate with the managers of cultural monuments at various different levels, including Telemark County Council, the Norwegian Directorate for Cultural Heritage, the Bergen Municipal Cultural Heritage Management Office, the Geological Survey of Norway, the Oslo Municipal Cultural Heritage Management Office and Vestfold County Council.

Our partners from research institutions and museums at home and abroad are as follows:

  • The University of Linköping
  • The University of Antwerp
  • The NIKU (Norwegian Institute for Cultural Heritage Research)
  • The UiO (University of Oslo), Department of Archaeology, Conservation and History (IAKH)
  • The University of Leicester
  • The Norwegian Institute, Athens
  • The UiB (University of Bergen), Archaeology
  • The Berlin Institute of Technology
  • The Humboldt University of Berlin
  • Manchester Metropolitan University
  • The Ironbridge Institute, University of Birmingham
  • The University of Exeter
  • The Eindhoven University of Technology
  • Gothenburg University
  • Aarhus University
  • The Arctic University of Norway
  • The Telemark Research Institute
  • King’s College London
  • The Australian National University, Canberra
  • The University of Leeds
  • The Norwegian Museum of Cultural History
  • The Norwegian Museum of Science and Technology
  • The NTNU University Museum
  • Association of Critical Heritage Studies (ACHS)
  • The Norwegian Industrial Workers Museum (NIA) and the World Heritage Centre
  • The Telemark County Council/The Telemark Art Centre 
  • SaHo as

Research projects

Inger Birkeland: Hydrofeminism and Industrial Heritage: The Watery Bodies of Rjukan-Notodden World Heritage

Inger Birkeland: The Nature-Culture Interface: Valuing Industrial Heritage in the Anthropocene.  

Steffen Fagernes Johannessen: Rjukan and Notodden’s Technical-Industrial History as World Heritage. 

Lars Frers: Object Epistemologies between Absence and Presence. 

Ellen Schrumpf: Changing Industrial Societies: Leadership and Power Relations. 

Ellen Schrumpf: Parenthood and Emotions. A Cultural History Project.  


Birkeland, Inger (2018) Making sense of the future: Valuing Industrial Heritage in the Anthropocene. Future Anterior, Special issue: Utopian currents in heritage, edited by Liz Stainforth and Helen Graham, 14(2).

Birkeland, Inger (2018, in press) Heritage and Society. SAS Encyclopedia of Archaeological Sciences, edited by Sandra L. López Varela. Wiley-Blackwell.

Birkeland, Inger, Constanza Parra, Rob Burton and Katriina Siivonen (eds.)(2018): Cultural Sustainability and the Nature-Culture Interface: Livelihoods, Policies, Methodologies. Routledge Series in Culture and Sustainable Development (ISBN 978-11-38-65049-7).

Soini, Katriina and Inger Birkeland (2014) Exploring the scientific discourse of cultural sustainability. Geoforum, vol. 51, no. 1 (pp. 213–223).

Birkeland, Inger (2014) Cultural Cornerstones. Theoretical and Didactical Perspectives on Climate Change. Oslo: Cappelen Damm Akademisk (ISBN 978-82-02-42616-3).

Birkeland, Inger (2008) Cultural Sustainability: Industrialism, Placeless-ness and the Re-animation of Place. Ethics, Place & Environment, vol. 11, no. 3 (pp. 283-297).

Frers, Lars (2013). The matter of absence. Cultural Geographies, 20(4), 431-445. doi:10.1177/1474474013477775.

Frers, Lars (2016). Confronting absence : Relation and difference in the affective qualities of heritage sites. In T. S. Guttormsen & G. Swensen (eds.), Heritage, democracy and the public : Nordic approaches (pp. 285-296). Farnham: Ashgate.

Frers, Lars (2018). Materialität : Wie die Sinne Sinn in Bewegung setzen. In M. Hilgert, K. P. Hofmann, & H. Simon (Eds.), Objektepistemologien (Vol. 59, pp. 55-67). Berlin: Edition Topoi. doi:10.17171/3-59.

Johannessen, S.F. (2005). Auf der suche nach dem verlorenen Staat -  im Indischen Ozean. Co-author in Neveling and Burger: Auf der suche nach dem verlorenen Staat. Multimedia Art Project, Summer-School, Halle/Saale, Germany.

Johannessen, S. F. (2010). From Socialist Uprising to Cultural Genocide: The Emergence of Traditions in Chagossian Struggles for Repatriation. In S. Klien & P. Neveling (eds.), Tradition Within and Beyond the Framework of Invention: Case Studies from Mascarenes and Japan (Vol. 28/2010, pp. 69-104). Halle (Saale): Zentrum für Interdisziplinäre Regionalstudien Vorderer Orient, Africa, Asien der Martin-Luther-Univ. Halle-Wittenberg.

Johannessen, S. F. (2011). Cleaning for the Dead: the Chagossian Pilgrimage to their Homeland. In S. Evers & M. Kooy (eds.), Eviction from the Chagos Islands: Displacement and Struggle for Identity Against two World Powers (pp. 183-217). Leiden; Boston: Brill.

Johannessen, S. F., & Jeffery, L. (2011). Reflections on the Life and Art of the Chagossian Painter Clément Siatous. Wasafiri: Indian Oceans, International Contemporary Writing. UK: Routeledge, 26(66), 72-78. 

Johannessen, S. F. (2016). Sacralising the Contested: the Chagossian Diaspora and their First Pilgrimage to the Homeland. PhD dissertation, Martin-Luther-University Halle-Wittenberg.

Johannessen, S. F. (2018). Dis/entangled Hubs: Connectivity and Disconnections in the Chagos Archipelago. In B. Schnepel & E. A. Alpers (Eds.), Connectivity in motion: island hubs in the Indian Ocean (pp. 259-287). New York: Palgrave MacMillan.

Schrumpf, Ellen (2003) Child Labour in the West. I Paula Fass (ed.): Encyclopedia of Children and Childhood: In History and Society. London.  

Schrumpf, Ellen (2006): The City by the River. The History of Porsgrunn 1840-1920. Porsgrunn.

Schrumpf, Ellen (2007): The History of Childhood. Oslo, Det Norske Samlaget.  

Schrumpf, Ellen (2009):    History of Child Labour in the Nordic Countries. In Hugh.

Hindman (ed.):  The World of Child Labour. An Historical and Regional Survey.  M.E. Sharpe. 

Schrumpf, Ellen (2014): People and industries in Telemark during the 1800s. In Nils Ivar Agøy og Ellen Schrumpf (ed.): The History of Telemark 1814-1905. Volume 2 of the History of Telemark. Bergen.  

Schrumpf, Ellen (2018): Children and Their Stories of World War II. A study of Essays by Norwegian Schoolchildren from 1946. In Reidar Aasgaard, Marcia Bunge and Merethe Roos (ed.): Nordic Childhoods 1700 - 1960. Routledge.  

Sturød, Anne Gry (2019): From coal to cool: Reordering nature in post-Soviet Kyrgyzstan. In Tourist Studies 2019

Current PhD projects

Eyvind Bagle: Crystal blocks of coldness: Contrast and similarities of an industry. This PhD project is linked to the research project entitled The Last Ice Age", primarily funded by the NFR (Research Council of Norway (FRIHUMSAM 275188).

Audhild Lindheim Kennedy: Den forpliktende gaven. En undersøkelse av utviklingen og implementeringen av en lokal læreplan om verdensarven Rjukan-Notodden. The obligation and the gift. A study of the implementation process of a local curriculum in the World Heritage area of Rjukan - Notodden.  

Guro Nordby: Materialitet I industrien – mennesker, ting og industrisamfunnets gjenstandskultur. Materiality in industrial society: people, things and the industrial society. 

Benjamin John Glyndwr Richards: Devising Heritage: Voices of dissent in post-industrial place. 

Ida Skjelderup: Mot et nytt nasjonalmuseum: en sammenliknende analyse av tilskuerens rolle i Nasjonalmuseets formidlingstekster. Towards a New National Museum in Norway: A Text analytical and comparative Study of the Role and Audience in the Museum’s Dissemination. 

Ingrid Smedstad: Vern og bruk av kulturminner som turistattraksjon og reiselivsmål. The conservation and use of cultural monuments as tourist attractions and destinations.  

Anne Gry Sturød: Sustainable tourism: rural entrepreneurship and heritage.

Annette Winkelmann: Graduation celebration in Norway 2018-2022.