Preserving Heritage: Science, Technology, and Documentation

Course Level: 
Master’s
Campus: 
Vienna
Course Open to: 
Students on-site
Remote students
Academic Year: 
2022-2023
Term: 
Winter
US Credits: 
2
ECTS Credits: 
4
Course Code: 
CHSP5057
Course Description: 

Until very recently the notion of “toxic heritage” was primarily applied to radioactive waste and nuclear waste management, however current scholarship suggests that we should consider the conceptual proximity of heritage management and nuclear waste management. Cultural heritage often works with and commemorates sites of horror, genocide, war crimes, or environmental disasters. Along with testimonies of these events, records, and documents as by-products, artifacts, and specimens surviving as cultural objects, we will investigate various memory practices:  technologies, remembrance, selection, classification, preservation management, all somehow different from the traditional conservation practices of cultural heritage. 

Scholars also suggest considering the idea that toxic heritage might become the future of human legacy. The global crises, destruction of the environment, migration, overproduction of ephemeral digital data highlight the need for more resilient heritage management. However, a dramatic question arises: how to prepare for an unknown future? We would like to examine different types of heritage management practices and identify the dynamic assemblage of bodies, techniques, technologies, materials, temporalities, and spaces building new realities. We also acknowledge the multiplicity of futures and the multiplicity of heritage practices by drawing on various disciplines: historical research, archival studies, creative artistic initiatives, and documentary filmmaking. “At the core of Quantum Field Theory, a theory of nature’s transience is the radical undoing of the separation between being and nothingness. Time is out of joint. It is diffracted, broken apart, exploded, scattered in multiple directions. Each moment is an infinite multiplicity where other moments are here-now in particular constellations. ‘Now’ is not an infinitesimal slice, but an infinitely rich condensed node in a changing field diffracted across spacetime (Barad 2017).” 

 

The course addresses six major themes: 

 1. Toxic Heritage: concepts, definitions, interpretations, classification of knowledge 

2. The Negative Monument: nuclear waste management and containment. Visiting the IAEA Archives.

3. Museum Infrastructure and Policies:  how to manage collections including artifacts, specimens representing eugenic thinking.

4. Digital Ephemera: abuse, pornography, violence – what shall we preserve from digital junk?

5. Surveillance, State-controlled observations in the history: data as evidence 

6. Memory Politics, Invented Traditions, and Histories