4th Heritage Forum of Central Europe: Heritage and society
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1–2 czerwca 2017

The purpose of the fourth edition was to discuss and analyse mutual relationships between heritage and society. The decision on the priority treatment of the issue of heritage’s cultural, political, and economic influence on contemporary society was connected with the diagnosis of the state of research in heritage studies. For a long time now, the bonds between society and heritage have been considered to be one of the most important aspects of the debate on human legacy, both tangible and intangible.

Just as important for the conference organisers was the diagnosis of Brian Graham, Gregory Ashworth, and John Tunbridge, who claim that the category of heritage should be extended to “nearly all kinds of intergenerational exchanges or relationships which are established between both communities and individuals – irrespective of whether they are wanted or unwanted”. According to the authors of this concept, it is people who are “the creators of heritage”. Hence, several important questions posed within the framework of the 4th Forum were the following: What is the attitude of society to the issue of heritage today – to its crucial, yet often difficult past? In what way does heritage shape the communities in which we live? Who is the owner of heritage and why? What are their social functions? What do we want to remember and what do we try to forget?

The two‑day meeting at the ICC, which gathered nearly two hundred people, was an attempt at answering the above and other questions connected with the social dimension of heritage. Researchers working in the areas of various scientific fields, including art and architecture, history and literature, economics and sociology, politics and management, were invited to participate in the conference. Within the framework of the announced open enrolment, over 150 speech proposals were submitted, out of which 80 were selected to be delivered during the two days of the Forum. Finally, during the two days of the Forum and in four main thematic blocks (i.e. unwanted heritage, heritage protection in light of contemporary social challenges, memory constructions, and heritage and communities), 71 lectures were presented by researchers from 20 countries: Austria, Belarus, Croatia, Montenegro, the Czech Republic, Greece, the Netherlands, Ireland, Malta, Germany, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Sweden, Ukraine, Hungary, Great Britain, and Italy. For those interested in the topics raised during the Forum, the ICC created an opportunity to participate in the conference as listeners. 44 people used that opportunity – mainly academics and employees of cultural institutions from Poland, the Czech Republic, Germany, and Norway.

While opening the meeting on 1 June, Prof. Jacek Purchla underlined the fact that the Forum is the Central European voice for the world in the area of the philosophy of heritage, and its protection and management. The region, as he emphasised, was connected by a special bond based on similar environmental and cultural conditions, and also on common historical experience, therefore the exchange of experience and aspirations to devise common solutions was of paramount importance. Professor Purchla also pointed to the Forum’s evolution and its present formula which confirms the fact that it is possible today to talk not only about what is geographically the closest to us, but virtually about the entire world from Krakow and in Krakow.

A group of outstanding researchers in heritage were invited to deliver plenary lectures: Prof. Sharon Macdonald from the Humboldt University in Berlin / the University of York; Prof. John Tunbridge, a retired professor from Carleton University in Ottawa; and Prof. Rob van der Laarse from the University of Amsterdam. Whereas John Tunbridge presented a historical‑critical diagnosis of the state of research into heritage in his lecture and postulated a wider turn in the direction of the phenomenon’s intangibility, Sharon Macdonald, on the basis of the three international research projects she ran, attempted to present new trends and models of reflection on heritage and the mechanism of heritage users’ activation. In his speech, Rob van der Laarse announced the twilight of the Holocaust paradigm in studies on memory and the return of the so‑called memory wars in the situation of increased nationalism in Europe. All three lectures were widely promoted and open to the public. Each time, they had an audience of about two hundred people.

Seven expert presentations supplemented the plenary lectures prepared especially for the needs of the Forum. Recognised theoreticians and practitioners in the field of heritage (Tamás Fejérdy Ph.D., Sophia Labadi Ph.D., Jakub Muchowski Ph.D. with Aleksandra Szczepan, Ioannis Poulios Ph.D., Hanna Schreiber Ph.D., Prof. Pavel Váreka and Magdalena Vášáryová) presented the key problems for the leading motif of the conference in their speeches, such as the role of civil society in the protection of cultural goods, the social dimension of museology, vernacular memory and uncommemorated places of remembrance, “difficult” heritage, the heritage of totalitarianisms (Communism), intangible heritage, and the role of heritage in Central Europe.

Apart from that, within the 4th Heritage Forum of Central Europe, the ICC organised a meeting of four national networks of the Anna Lindh Euro‑Mediterranean Foundation for the Dialogue between Cultures – the institution whose Polish coordinator was the ICC. The annual meeting of the Polish network taking place in Krakow was joined this time by the Anna Lindh Foundation members from the Czech Republic, Slovakia, and Hungary. The meeting had 48 participants who took part in plenary lectures, selected thematic sessions, and in the accompanying programme.

Within the framework of the event closing the 4th Heritage Forum, all participants took part in a study visit to the Benedictine Abbey in Tyniec. There, they became acquainted with a unique example of the revitalisation of an object of universal historical and social value, which managed to retain its individual identity and function.
The total number of the participants in the 4th Heritage Forum was nearly two hundred people (including 176 registered: 71 researchers delivering presentations, 10 lecturers and experts, 3 representatives of the Experts’ Working Group for the Visegrad Countries Cultural Heritage, 44 registered attendees without presentations, 48 members of the Anna Lindh Foundation of V4 countries network) from 22 countries (Austria, Belarus, Croatia, Montenegro, the Czech Republic, Greece, the Netherlands, Ireland, Canada, Malta, Germany, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Sweden, Ukraine, Hungary, Great Britain, and Italy).

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