The Fifth Biennial Conference of the Association of Critical Heritage Studies (ACHS) took place as a fully virtual/online conference in August 2020. The conference’s theme – Futures – aimed to engage seriously and critically with the often stated aims of heritage to address the concerns of future generations, whilst also asking participants to think expansively and creatively about the future of critical heritage studies as an emergent field of focus across a range of academic disciplines.

Sessions, discussion panels, papers, posters and films explored a range of issues, including (but not limited to): the future of critical heritage studies; newly emerging concepts, themes and methods for the study of heritage; the future of heritage management, governance and diplomacy; evolving and nascent forms of heritage, and how they might be recognised; heritage as future-making; the “time” of heritage and its relationship with the past, present and future; future impacts of climatological, ecological, economic, political and social change on heritage; future relations of natural and cultural heritage in the light of the recognition of the Anthropocene; and the future of heritage itself.

The local conference organising committee identified a series of sub-themes which represented distinct threads through the conference. Session organisers and paper proposers were asked to select one of these sub-themes when they submitted their proposals.


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    Arts and Creative Practice

    Sessions and papers in this sub-theme may explore one or more of the following topics:

    Making, Thinking, Doing, Creating – Looking at issues of co-design and critical creative practice, with a focus on shared methods and questions across heritage and art;

    Provocations and Possibilities – How to deal with contested, dissonant and difficult heritage through arts and creative practice, and the production of future heritage imaginaries;

    The Broader Context: Politics, Economics and the Environment – Creating and consuming heritage and the arts in times of change, including the relationship between heritage, social justice and the Creative Industries;

    Future Trajectories – Working with new technologies, addressing emergent challenges, and building more equitable heritage futures through critical-creative practice.

    This sub-theme particularly welcomes alternative session formats and methods of presentation, including short films, photo-essays, performances and creative writing. Crucially, we do not see ‘the arts’ as being restricted to a specific field and would encourage session organisers addressing other thematic areas to explore how the above questions and concerns might challenge or augment their own panels.

    For any questions about the sub-theme please contact sub-theme convenor Colin Sterling (

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    Future Policies and Politics of Heritage

    Sessions and papers in this sub-theme might explore one or more of the following topics:

    Politicisation of Heritage: cultural policy and legislation; post-truth rhetoric; politics of division; changing political landscapes

    Heritage-Making: the commodification of heritage; past and revisited values; representations; contested heritages; ethics

    Sustainable futures: global challenges; culture and development.

    For any questions about the sub-theme please contact sub-theme convenor Hana Morel (

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    Environmental Change and the Anthropocene

    Sessions and papers in this sub-theme might explore one or more of the following topics:

    Adaptation, mitigation, resilience and sustainability – New approaches to natural and cultural heritage management in times of environmental collapse;

    Heritage in more-than-human worlds – Transcending boundaries between social and natural heritage processes, and engaging in an ethical way with indigenous epistemologies and ontologies through decolonial and postcolonial frameworks;

    (Re)shaping the future – Developing critical perspectives on future material legacies and new heritage paradigms for a post-Anthropocene Earth.

    For any questions about the sub-theme please contact sub-theme convenors Nadia Bartolini (, Esther Breithoff ( and Colin Sterling (

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    Digital Futures in and for Heritage

    Sessions and papers in this sub-theme might explore one or more of the following topics:

    Transforming heritage experiences – examining the ways in which digital technologies are affecting our interactions with the past; how they are transforming everyday encounters with heritage, and the values people assign to those encounters.

    Connecting heritage and people – exploring how web-based and other digitallyenabled methods have been used to bring together heritage objects, places and practices that are physically located in (potentially) very distant and different parts of the world, and the implications for heritage and for people.

    Digital heritage ontologies and futures – exploring the kinds of ‘future heritages’ that are emerging from a world of big data; the qualities of those digital heritages and the challenges that they pose in terms of management, use and disposal.

    Digital heritage activism – examining how direct engagements with technicity through data science and digital making can contribute to opening up black boxes and exposing issues related to the current ‘health’ of the Web: privacy, publicness, security, etc.

    For any questions about the sub-theme please contact sub-theme convenor Chiara Bonacchi (

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    Folklore and Intangible Cultural Heritages

    As well as potentially exploring folklore and intangible cultural heritage studies (and their relationship) into the future, this strand can consider, amalgamate, and go beyond the following:

    Folklore as heritage-making and heritage participation

    ‘Critical’ folklore: The role of folklore and folkloristics in addressing contemporary and future-affecting issues. This might include: Sustainability, climate change, conflict, health, etc. / Globalising folklore: migration, cultural synthesis, creolisation, transnational identity and experience, etc.

    Digital and contemporary folklore, including the impact of the ‘digital revolution’ on folk culture and intangible cultural heritages

    Conversation vs Conservation? Public/applied folklore and intangible cultural heritage and local, national and international policies

    Folklore at the crossroads of the past, present and future: folklore in transition/as transformation

    For any questions about the sub-theme please contact sub-theme convenor Tina Paphitis (

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    Heritage and Foodways

    Foodways, as the intersection of food in culture, traditions and history, explores the social, cultural, political and economic practices pertaining to food production and consumption. This strand is therefore interested in the practices and meanings surrounding food and how these contribute to broader heritage constructions and engagements. It may include the following:

    The ‘retraditionalisation’ of foodways and their implications for future food practices

    Emerging foodways through creolisation, political movements, new engagements with digital platforms, etc.

    The role of foodways in debates surrounding sustainability, security, welfare, and environmental impact, including contentious food practices and Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK)

    Global and globalising foodways: Food diasporas, culinary/gastronomic tourism, and peace-making foodways

    For any questions about the sub-theme please contact sub-theme convenor Tina Paphitis (

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    Conflict heritage and conflicted heritages

    Sessions and papers in this sub-theme might explore one or more of the following topics:

    Safeguarding of cultural and natural heritage during/after conflict – a priority in times of (post)conflict? Best practices, ethics, practices of care

    Conflict heritage as contested heritage?

    Between destruction and creation – understanding the creative potential of conflict

    Community involvement with/responses to conflict and/or post-conflict heritage

    Indigenous engagement/responses to conflict and heritage management

    Conflict heritage beyond armed violence (social unrest, humans vs nature, etc)

    Loss and change as future-making opportunities

    Future-building capacities of heritage; heritage and its potential to promote sustainable peace and development goals.

    For any questions about the sub-theme please contact sub-theme convenor Esther Breithoff (

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    Urban heritage futures

    Sessions and papers in this sub-theme may explore one or more of the following topics:

    How material traces of the past (and/or portrayals of the past) are used to remake cities in the present (i.e. how the materials and memories of cities’ pasts comingle to physically construct both their landscapes and how we chose to live in them in the present and future)

    How the material remains of the past in the urban can sometimes become favoured over the needs of living populations and their own contemporary heritage practices

    The continued flight from the countryside into cities and its implication for city dwelling (what ‘heritage’ do we bring into cities?)

    The interplay between urban governance and heritage policy upon urban populations sense of identity/place

    Heritage practice and urban development as a form of commodity exchange (e.g. the calculus of ‘mitigation’ and compromise to selectively value or dispose of the materials of the past or indeed traditions of the past – for example, in CRM contexts)

    Critique of western/Eurocentric approaches to working with heritage in urban centres – i.e. the wider critique of ‘world’/global cities as a concept, how might alternate models be employed without this becoming tokenistic?

    The impact of recent, potentially more progressive, UNESCO (or indeed national or regional heritage agencies’) approaches to cities: e.g. the Creative Cities Network and the Recommendation on the Historic Urban Landscape (2011)

    The material and immaterial of cities abandoned/modified through climate change/disasters

    ‘Re-placing’ the natural in the urban: e.g. ‘daylighting’ of rivers, the ‘parkification’ of defunct transport infrastructure (à la The Highline) etc. – the wider implications and politics of such practices for Critical Heritage Studies

    Pollution in cities – tangible and intangible legacies of ‘dying’ industries on our environments, buildings, in our bodies, in legislation

    Consideration of continuing debates relating to the removal of statues, alteration of building names, and other efforts in urban locations to recognise or challenge historic legacies and present day instances of colonialism, racism, and sexism (for example).

    For any questions about the sub-theme please contact sub-theme convenor Jonathan Gardner (

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    Future Methods and Approaches to Critical Heritage Studies

    Sessions and papers in this sub-theme might explore one or more of the following topics:

    Sensory and performative heritage methods – exploring problems/potentials for their collection/capture, and what this means for future research; re-contextualisations; affective, sensory and immaterial elements of heritage.

    Future-proof heritages and addressing retrofit measures – exploring challenges and opportunities of new technologies, tools and instruments onto older systems and how organisations are dealing with or need to prepare for subsequent changes.

    Complex research designs and mixed-methods approaches – exploring how to develop and apply research designs that are complex and require the combination, joining up or linking of data-intensive and qualitative methods creatively. These designs may entail: interdisciplinary, ethical and technical challenges, as well as issues relating to trust building and difficult ‘measures’.

    Using big data: exploring the value of social media spaces and data, and of other kinds of big data to inform heritage research; the questions this data can help answering, as well as the implications of using big data in methodological, technical, and ethical terms.

    Datasets, archives and data governance – exploring institutions’ and citizens’ practices of data discovery, access and reuse.

    For any questions about the sub-theme please contact sub-theme convenors Chiara Bonacchi (, Hana Morel (, Tina Paphitis (, Jennie Morgan (

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    Future Landscapes of Heritage

    In the current conjuncture where political, socio-economic and environmental uncertainty is upon us, heritage narratives may enable certain groups to shape, clarify and promote particular sites and values. This sub-theme specifically seeks to engage with natural and socio-cultural elements that conceptually explore and/or redefine the geographies of the future landscapes of heritage, such as:

    Remaking natures (including exploring human/nonhuman relations)

    The place of affect and emotions

    Landscapes of power and identity

    The spaces and contemporary practices of religion and alternative spiritualities

    For any questions about the sub-theme please contact sub-theme convenor Nadia Bartolini (

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    The Future Museum: Collections and Collecting

    Sessions and papers in this sub-theme may explore one or more of the following topics:

    The Future of Museums and Collections- exploring innovative concepts, practices, and/or forms. How is the field pushing beyond the ‘critical’ or ‘new’ in heritage studies approaches to museums and collections: what comes next?

    Museums and Collections as Future-Making -recognising that by acquiring, preserving, categorising, displaying/exhibiting, and interpreting cultural and natural heritage specific futures and not others are generated. What kinds of futures are generated through such collecting practices? What is omitted or excluded in this process? Attempts to explore the (im)material legacies – broadly and more specifically understood – that museums and collections ‘gift’ to the future, and related possibilities and problems these legacies present, as tackled in the past and present

    Researching Museums and Collections- considering opportunities and challenges for the future of research from varied disciplinary perspectives. Includes (yet is not limited to): studying museums as organisations; mixed quantitative and qualitative methods; applied scholarship; provenance research; big-data museum research; the affective, sensory and immaterial; audience research; and creative interventions. Focuses on generating productive futures for dialogue between research, practice, and theory

    Future-Proofing Museums and Collections- engaging with future sustainability when faced with acute social, economic, political, climatological, technological, and/or governance change. What issues are grappled with to ensure future relevance and how can museums and collections prepare for change in these areas? Especially considers what productive openings critical scholarship can provide

    Digital Museology – examining dialogue between newly emergent digital technologies and museum practices with a focus on past, present, and future audiences or stakeholders

    For any questions about the sub-theme please contact sub-theme convenor Jennie Morgan (

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    Heritage and time

    Papers and sessions in this sub-theme might address the following range of related issues:

    Heritage in time-critical approaches to the history of heritage;

    Heritage of time-periodisation as method and practice in heritage studies;

    Heritage and time-the role of heritage in making and marking distinctive temporalities and the possibilities for heritage studies to engage such practices otherwise; heritage as future-making practices.

    For any questions about the sub-theme please contact sub-theme convenor Rodney Harrison (

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    The Futures of Heritage

    Papers and sessions in this sub-theme might address the following range of related issues:

    Heritage in the future- futures of heritage designation, collection, ordering, governance and management;

    Heritage of the future- future and emergent forms of heritage;

    The futures of Heritage Studies-new approaches to critical heritage studies.

    For any questions about the sub-theme please contact sub-theme convenor Rodney Harrison (

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    Mobilities and Migration

    The issue of borders-be they physical, political, ideological, philosophical-are issues in which heritage has been deeply implicated throughout history. It is clear that the accompanying issues of movement, mobilities, and forced or elective migration will continue to accelerate and dominate the role of heritage in the future. Papers and sessions in this sub-theme will address a range of related issues which might include the following:

    Future predictions relating to migration and movement and the implications for heritage;

    Borders/territorialisation: breaking down, moving across, re-defining borders as a means to heighten heritage constructs;

    The rise of new popular movements, new nationalisms and heritage;

    New ways of studying and conceptualising heritage which relate to new forms of mobility and new issues arising in relation to heritage in the future.

    For any questions about the sub-theme please contact sub-theme convenor Nadia Bartolini (

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    Open Sub-theme

    This sub-theme is intended for those who wish to propose papers and sessions which they feel address the overall conference rationale but which are not well represented in the other sub-themes. The local conference organising committee will attempt to place these within existing sub-themes if possible but we also want to keep open the possibility of additional and emergent topics of interest which are relevant to the overall conference theme.

    For any questions about the sub-theme please contact sub-theme convenor Colin Sterling (

All proposals must identify at least one relevant conference sub-theme upon submission.

Please contact the relevant sub-theme convenor(s) for any queries about a specific theme.


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    Curated Sessions

    Must be submitted as a group of 4 or 8 papers of 20 mins each (usually 15 minutes for the paper itself and 5 min question time) which will be assigned a single or double session block of 1.5 or 3 hours respectively. This means you will need to organise presentation speakers for your session in advance of the deadline. All session proposals must identify one or more session organisers and provide both a session title and abstract of up to 250 words along with individual paper presenters, titles and abstracts of up to 250 words each. Sessions may also identify a discussant but that individual should also be allocated a 20 minute paper slot, so that the total number of papers including the discussant paper should not exceed 4 or 8 papers. Please note that we particularly encourage sessions which are co-organised by pairs of scholars from different countries, regions, institutions and/or disciplines to facilitate international and interdisciplinary conversations across key topics. Session convenors will be responsible for submitting session proposals and the accompanying individual paper abstracts.

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    Stand-alone papers

    May also be submitted. These will be reviewed individually and assigned to sessions formed of groups of papers on related topics by local organising committee sub-theme convenors. Individual paper submissions should include the names of one or more authors/presenters, a title and 250 word abstract. 

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    Individual posters

    Provide an opportunity for research to be displayed via a poster format. Individual poster proposals should be submitted as part of the main call for papers and sessions and should include one or more presenters, a title and abstract of up to 250 words. If accepted as part of the conference programme, posters will be assigned an individual poster board and will be allocated a specific time within the conference schedule.

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    Discussion panels

    Will be allocated a 1.5 hour session block. Discussion panels will normally take the form of a round table without formal paper presentations, inviting discussion amongst panellists and audience members on a particular topic or issue. Discussion panel proposals should include details of one or more panel organiser/convenor(s), a title and 250 word panel abstract, and a list of panel discussants and their affiliations. While the specific details of the organisation of the discussion panel will be left up to panel convenors, we would expect discussion panels to list at least four discussants and at least one organiser/convenor.

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    Can be submitted individually or as part of a short series (max 3 films) related to a specific project. Please provide a title and short abstract (up to 250 words) for the film or film series you would like to show. All film proposals should identify a relevant conference sub-theme upon submission. Please contact Arts and Creative Practice convenor Colin Sterling if you have any specific questions about this strand of the conference.

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    Limits on roles

    An individual may not make more than two substantive contributions to the conference programme (paper presenter, panel member, discussant-there are however no limits to how many sessions you may organise and the role of session organiser does not count towards the limit on two substantive contributions). It is up to individuals to ensure they are mindful of these limits when submitting proposals for review.

The deadline for the call for curated sessions, individual papers, posters, films and discussion panels was midnight UK time on the 31st October 2019.

All curated sessions and individual proposals were double peer reviewed by members of the conference scientific committee. Those who submitted a curated session, individual paper, poster, film or discussion panel proposal for the conference programme were contacted at the end of January 2020 to confirm whether their contribution had been accepted.

Abstract Submission

Abstracts were submitted and reviewed via Ex Ordo, our conference management partner.