Research Programme

Museums have to decide how to deal with colonial robbery in their collections, schools have to discuss every year whether and how they want to celebrate traditional events in the calendar and local authorities have to consult with residents about how to repurpose empty churches. Heritage professionals play an important role in many of these decisions, as discussion partners, advisors, project leaders or otherwise. The research group examines what forms of knowledge and skill can help professionals, but also the general public, in making the right choices when dealing with pressing heritage issues. The Cultural Heritage research group conducts this research, with and for the heritage field.

The research group works from the idea that it is important to understand the interplay of interests, emotions and knowledge claims that surround traditions, museum collections, exceptional places and old buildings. Gaining an understanding of the complex dynamics originating from the formation of heritage contributes to “heritage wisdom”. Heritage wisdom encompasses the entirety of competences that enable people to relate to heritage critically and to have a conversation about it, and doing so while being aware of the social dynamics surrounding heritage and their own position in it. Heritage wisdom is an important competence, not only for heritage professionals but for all citizens of the 21st century.

To build a heritage-wise society, the research group developed the emotion networks method together with Imagine IC and other partners. Emotion networks are the various feelings that people have about a heritage item, which can sometimes clash drastically. However, emotion networking can also be used as verb. It is an exercise that provides insights into the complex interplay of emotions and interests surrounding heritage. The aim of emotion networking is to enable participants to see how mutual relationships can change and thereby become (more) aware of the complex dynamics surrounding heritage.

All the work of the research group is based on the vision that heritage is not merely about objects, but an understanding that certain objects are considered by some people as being essential to their culture or identity. It is a quality mark that is awarded when people feel that there has been a rapid change, loss or alienation. By calling objects or traditions "heritage" and nurturing them as such, people underline their importance while at the same time claiming ownership, which often stems from their history. This heritage-making process always involves conflicting interests and emotions: someone cherishing an object as heritage may be perceived by another as painful, offensive or petty. This makes the work of heritage professionals and the research around the theory, practice and ethics of the professional management of heritage very complex, but also quite challenging.

Heritage professionals can make a difference in complex heritage interactions and in tackling explicit heritage issues. How? Through meaningful interventions. The research group designs and explores professional interventions in four areas: (1) urban renewal and quality of life, (2) religion and museums, (3) food and nature and (4) celebration and commemoration. The research takes place through various subprojects, in which teachers and students from the Reinwardt Academy collaborate with numerous partners from the Netherlands and abroad.


Hester Dibbits

Hester Dibbits has been a lector in cultural heritage and a director of the international master's programme at the Reinwardt Academy since 2011. Starting in 2014, she has combined her work for the academy as endowed professor at the Erasmus School of History, Culture and Communication (ESHCC) at Erasmus University in Rotterdam, where Dibbits holds the chair of Historical Culture and Education, which was established by the LKCA. She previously worked as a researcher for the Ethnology Department of the Meertens Institute (KNAW) and as interim chief curator for the Netherlands Open Air Museum. In her work, Dibbits is always looking for connections between the scientific world and heritage. She uses a combined historical and ethnological perspective, focussing especially on heritage and the culture of everyday life. Dibbits supervises MA and PhD student as they research material culture, heritage, museums and education. She is the representative of the NWA route Living History of the National Science Agenda and a member of the National Research Council for Cultural Heritage.

Nancy van Asseldonk

Nancy van Asseldonk is an expert in Dutch language and has been working at the Reinwardt Academy since 2007. Before that she worked at the City Archives in Amsterdam. Her work focuses on education and research projects that bring together different disciplines, fields and research methods. Nancy is involved as a lecturer-researcher in the Cultural Heritage research group at the Reinwardt Academy. She worked on the Street Values project (2015-2019) under the direction of Riemer Knoop. Street values was an exploration of new heritage practices in conjunction with new practices of "urbanization". This resulted in the publication There is no then without now (2018), which was the result of a search for different heritage values in two Amsterdam neighborhoods. She is currently a member of the knowledge circle of the lectorate led by Hester Dibbits and she is conducting research into the appreciation and handling of post-war architectural heritage.

Paul Ariese

Paul Ariese has been affiliated with the Reinwardt Academy since 2015 as a teacher for the international master's program Applied Museum and Heritage Studies (AMHS) and the bachelor's degree in Cultural Heritage. In addition, he regularly participates in international training activities of the Reinwardt Academy.

He previously worked as a content developer at Perspekt Studios, as an exhibition maker at the Tropenmuseum, and as a designer at Architectenbureau Jowa. Ariese studied Graphic Design at Artez School of the Arts and Architectural Design at the Rietveld Academy. He received his MA in Museum Studies with distinction from the University of Leicester.

Paul is working on a PhD research on museumized religious spaces from the Cultural Heritage lectorate program. The synagogues of the Jewish Cultural Quarter in Amsterdam are central to his research which revolves around the question of how, in a post-secular society, religious rituals, sensations and experiences are "triggered" by immersive museum spaces. Special attention is paid to how different forms of historical knowledge, including "embodied knowledge", can be incorporated into professional heritage interventions. The underlying idea is that sensitivity to this type of knowledge contributes to a more inclusive society and heritage practice.

Dr Judy Jaffe-Schagen

Dr Judy Jaffe-Schagen is an independent historian based in Israel and The Netherlands, and a lecturer in the Masters in Applied Museum and Heritage Studies programme at the Reinwardt Academy in Amsterdam. She has a background in social-economic history and has been a researcher at museums like the Jewish Historical Museum in Amsterdam, the Zaans Museum in Zaandam, the Victoria and Albert Museum in London and Yad Vashem in Jerusalem. Her PhD research focused on the meaning of location on the relationship between people and objects and the role museums play in the formation of nation-states. Currently, she is conducting research on the interaction between museums and memorial sites and, as part of the research programme at the Reinwardt Acadamy, she is researching the role heritage professionals play in commemoration practices.

Jonathan Even-Zohar

Jonathan Even-Zohar (1982) is a trained historian (MA Leiden University) with a broad view on history and heritage education and the ways in which civil society and political actors (ab)use the past for promoting both democratic and non-democratic values. As former Executive Director of EUROCLIO – European Association of History Educators he has been able to work with thousands of history educators across the continent and beyond to initiate, lead and deliver high quality collaboration projects, funded by the European Union, as well as through private foundations. As an independent consultant (Evenzo Consultancy), since 2018, he works with various heritage and remembrance communities and organisation in The Netherlands and on a European level to develop societal projects and programmes which combines education, social development and creativity. For example, he coordinates a public educational campaign called Football Makes History and works with the Anne Frank House on the usage of football heritage for positive, inclusive, youth work.

Lenno Munnikes

Lenno Munnikes has been a researcher at ICAG and the Research Group Modernity and Society (MoSa) of KU Leuven since 2019. His research is about simple, fast and cheap food in Amsterdam (1900-1980). Lenno studied History and Anthropology at the University of Amsterdam. His master thesis focused on the social and cultural aspects of food. He is head of research at Flevo Campus and researcher cultural heritage at the Reinwardt Academy.


Would you like to know more about the activities, the researchers involved, and possible collaboration with the research group? Please contact Hester Dibbits via