Context 155 - July 2018

22 C O N T E X T 1 5 5 : J U L Y 2 0 1 8 HERITAGE FUTURES TEAM Assembling alternative futures for heritage Heritage management and conservation rarely consider how different ways of assembling, curating, caring for, and designing the future relate to one another. How could this be done? What do museums and archives, historic build- ings preservation, rewilding initiatives, botanic gardens and space messaging (addressing an audience far in the future) have in common? These fields share a desire to preserve ‘things’ (buildings, objects, places, monuments, species, knowledge) that are valued, yet are considered at risk of endangerment from loss, destruction, or decay. Practices of listing on heritage registers, or designation to protected status, articulate the view that potential or real threats must be mitigated, usually through some form of active intervention to protect.While taken for granted, this endangerment approach is increasingly being questioned by academic researchers (such as Harrison 2013, Rico 2015, Vidal and Dias 2016, and DeSilvey 2017). Could heritage management and conservation be practiced differently if uncoupled from the ideas of risk and endangerment? If heritage preservation is future-oriented – in that heritage practitioners work to protect the past for the future – what future, or futures, is it working towards, and is each the same across different kinds of preservation practices? How do we choose what to save for posterity? Questions such as these deserve far greater attention than is ordinarily given in scholarship or practice. The research programme Heritage Futures ( is a four-year collaborative international research programme (2015-2019) funded by a UK Arts and Humanities Research Council large grant. Led by Professor Rodney Harrison (UCL), it involves an interdisciplinary team of academics and researchers working in partnership with 22 non-academic organisations, who represent a range of different interests in the conservation of cultural and natural heritage. The programme is organised across four themes (uncertainty, profusion, transforma- tion, diversity). Each theme examines a core global challenge for managing heritage and other objects of conservation, and looks at a range of organisations and institutions that seek to tackle it. We undertake fieldwork across the diverse domains introduced above and run knowledge exchange events with our project partners to explore how specific strategies from each domain might be creatively redeployed in others. We also integrate film-making, creative practice, and exhibitions in our research. Alternative perspectives There are three key areas where Heritage Futures is innovative: A workshop in York introduced a professional declutterer to museum curators.