Cultural Heritage In Use

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Cultural heritage is a widely used word today, and is often interpreted as something important and positive. What do we really mean when we use the term cultural heritage?

Cultural heritage, artefacts and processes are results of the interaction between human beings and their surroundings, and between humans themselves. Internationally, there has been an extension of the research focus to include the meanings, contexts and consequences of cultural heritage in addition to the traditional focus on heritage artefacts and objects. This development has come about as a result of new roles of heritage in society, socially, culturally and economically.

The focus on USNs research on cultural heritage will be the new roles of cultural heritage in society, how cultural heritage relates to other contemporary phenomena as well as future challenges. Heritage research focus on issues today, and how they find their legitimacy in the past.

Research problems are:

  • Cultural heritage as a phenomenon and field in society (its actors, roles and institutions)
  • Heritage policies and democracy
  • Heritage, ideology, and nation building
  • World heritage and local communities
  • Industrial heritage
  • Cultural landscapes
  • Immaterial cultural heritage
  • Heritage and social integration
  • Heritage and childhood
  • Heritage and gender
  • Heritage, body and materiality
  • Heritage conservation, use and re-use

The research group has two main activity areas: 1) Uses of heritage, and 2) the policies of heritage. Power and politics are central concepts within both areas, for instance the cultural heritage policies as part of the general cultural policy. The contribution by the research group to this discussion will be to provide strong and independent critical research on different aspects of cultural heritage – the uses of heritage and heritage policies, which contributes to the development of the research area and which is relevant for policy-makers and heritage practitioners.

Research disciplines

The members of this group have a broad and often interdisciplinary approach to heritage research, mainly from interpretative humanistic and social science disciplines, as history and cultural history, archeology, human geography, cultural studies, sociology, social anthropology, history of religion, philosophy, music, ethnology, art history, language/linguistic disciplines etc. In addition, researchers from geology, health sciences, economics and teacher education are members of the group.

Research partners and international network

The members of the research group participate in extensive and international research networks related to ongoing projects, individually as well as in smaller groups. Some of the larger networks include the COST Action IS1007 Investigating Cultural Sustainability and the Nordic and International research networks for cultural policy research, and associated scientific journals. The research group cooperate with the Norwegian chapter of Association of critical heritage studies (ACH), where Norwegian Institute for Cultural Heritage Research (NIKU), Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU), and University of Bergen (UiB) are important contributors. Members of the research group also cooperate with the heritage practitioners and public authorities, like Telemark County Council, Directorate for Cultural Heritage, Arts Council Norway, City Council of Bergen and Oslo, NGU and Vestfold County Council.

Our research partners from institutions and museums in Norway and abroad are:

  • University of Linköping
  • University of Antwerpen
  • Norwegian Institute of Cultural Heritage (NIKU)
  • University of Oslo, Institute of Archaeology, Conserving and History
  • University of Leicester
  • The Norwegian Institute at Athens
  • University of Bergen
  • Technische Universität Berlin
  • Humboldt Universität Berlin
  • Manchester Metropolitan University
  • Ironbridge Institute, University of Birmingham
  • University of Exeter
  • Eindhoven University of Technology
  • Gothenburg University
  • Aarhus University
  • The Arctic University of Norway
  • Telemark Research Institute
  • King’s College London
  • Australian National University Canberra
  • University of Leeds
  • Norsk Folkemuseum
  • Norwegian Museum of Science and TechnologyNorwegian University of Science and Technology, University Museum


Research projects

Ellen Schrumpf: Norwegian childhood during the war 1940–1945: Between adulthood and childhood

Nanna Løkka: Women in the viking age

Geir Vestheim: Norwegian Heritage Policies in a Climate of Rapid Technical, Political and Economic Change. Proposal for Norwegian Research Council program KULMED spring 2015 and possible H2020-topic.

Inger Birkeland, Kerstin Bornholdt, Marit Johansson: Sustainable use and re-use of industrial heritage in Europe (full proposal for JPI Heritage Plus Joint Call, with University of Birmingham, Ironbridge Institute, and University of Technology Eindhoven).

Lars Frers, Kerstin Bornholdt, Inger Birkeland: Manufacturing Cultural Heritage (working title for ERC Horizon 2020, REFLECTIVE-2-2015 call, based on previous EU-proposal and network)

Ellen Schrumpf: Trancultural Memory of the Second World War in Europe: Memorial forms, Storytelling and the Possible (planned proposal for HERA, Humanities in the European Research Area, spring 2015)


Ongoing PhD-projects

Marit Johansson: The life in a World Heritage City. A case study of negotiations, discussions and contested values (University of Linköping)

Karolina Nikielska-Sekula: Heritage in Cultural Practices of Norwegian Turks (USN)

Ingrid Smedstad: Cultural heritage: Experience and historic understanding (USN).