Cultural Heritage Studies

Cultural Heritage Studies examine, often in an interdisciplinary perspective, all traces of the past that a certain community or a group of people considers to be valuable or to require protection. Cultural heritage, according to the UNESCO, is hereby not restricted to tangible objects such as paintings, sculptures, coins or manuscripts (movable) and monuments or archaeological sites (immovable). It also encompasses oral traditions, performing arts, rituals (intangible cultural heritage), even cultural landscapes and natural sites with cultural aspects (often also referred to as natural heritage). Scientific and public debates on cultural heritage have become particularly salient in recent years in the context of acquiring or trafficking of cultural property in in colonial contexts and the debate on the restitution of these objects.

Located in a city with one of the largest UNESCO cultural heritage sites in Europe (listed since 1986), researchers at International History at Trier University scrutinize the transnational and colonial entanglements that often characterize the past as a foreign country to paraphrase David Lowenthal’s path breaking study. Ursula Lehmkuhl, for example, prepares a digital archive of one of the worldwide largest collection of emigrant letters, the German Emigrant Letters Collection (Deutsche Auswandererbriefsammlung, DABS). She collaborates closely with the Research Library Gotha. Eva Bischoff, in collaboration with Anja Schwarz (Potsdam University), reconstructs the Australian archive in the Museum für Naturkunde, Berlin, in order to examine the role of colonial collections in the production, circulation and use of knowledge about the natural world.

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