How should we deal with the past in the present? This question is a source of inspiration, but also of conflict. Just think of the debate about Black Pete in the Netherlands, for example, or about new uses for empty churches. These discussions often touch upon issues surrounding identity and belonging. And every time we see emotional claims being laid on the past.
Today's society benefits from a better insight into the interplay between interests and emotions surrounding traditions, museum collections and old buildings. Such insight into heritage formation makes people 'heritage wise' and enables them to take a critical stance, having an eye for the social dynamics around heritage and their own position. Heritage wisdom is important not only for professionals, but for all of us.
In order to attain a heritage-wise society, a team of researchers headed by Hester Dibbits has developed a new method: emotion networking. Emotion networks consist of the many, sometimes violently clashing, feelings people experience when confronted with a particular heritage item. Emotion networking is an exercise that can provide insight into these complicated interplays between emotions and interests. Starting from a network approach inspired by the work of Bruno Latour and others, the researchers scrutinize not only the relationships and interactions between people but also between people and heritage items. The intended aim is for the participants to notice changes in the relationships and to become (more) aware of the complex dynamics surrounding heritage.
The Dutch National Research Agenda
In 2017, the Netherlands witnessed the launch of the Dutch National Research Agenda. This agenda for research and innovation has been subdivided into twenty-five so-called routes. Within the scope of the Living Past route, which investigates the significance of the past in and for an innovative society, numerous initiatives in the field of emotion networks and heritage wisdom are being developed in collaboration with academic, creative and social partners.
Emotions around religious heritage
As part of a theme programme focusing on young people a two-year research project on emotion networking and heritage education has been developed. In this project religious heritage takes centre stage. What happens when pupils list the emotions surrounding a specific (heritage) item and discuss these with their teacher and a heritage educator? Does such an exercise make the participants heritage wise? Does it give them insight into the dynamics around heritage and their own position?
In the spring of 2018, for example, Marlous Willemsen observed what happened during a series of emotion networking workshops around a replica of the cross from the Dutch televized passion play The Passion. Participants were pupils and teachers from De Dreef, a college for practical education in Amsterdam Southeast. Focal points of the research project are visualisation, imagination, reflection, the presentation of the multitude of voices, and the shifts that may occur in people's positions. Partners involved are the Reinwardt Academy, Erasmus University Rotterdam (EUR), the National Centre of Expertise for Cultural Education and Amateur Arts (LKCA), Imagine IC, the Centre for Educational Services (CED-Group), Waag Society, and Museum Gouda.
In 2018, the research team received a KIEM scholarship (Knowledge Innovation Mapping) for the project Facilitated Interaction on Heritage and Wellbeing. The project examines if and how the method of emotion networking is attuned to educational instruments that have been developed abroad for and by the museum sector. The team is also developing a toolkit to help translate abstract concepts from the academic field to daily practice. The research team includes VU Amsterdam, the University of Amsterdam (UvA), University College London (UCL), Vinger.nl, and the Typhlological Museum in Zagreb.
Courses for professionals and policymakers
Professionals need to look at heritage in a new, dynamic way and engage in debates about heritage in an inclusive manner. That is why the Reinwardt Academy and Imagine IC offer courses in heritage wisdom, in which emotions surrounding specific cases are recorded from a network perspective. The courses help professionals and policymakers become more conscious of the historical dynamics around heritage and of their own role.
Teacher training and Curriculum.nu
On a regular basis, courses are offered to teacher training colleges to help future teachers make their pupils heritage wise. At the same time, a group of heritage education consultants is actively promoting a firm embedding of heritage education in the new curriculum of primary and secondary schools. Heritage-wise pupils are aware of the fact that they are themselves capable of forming an opinion on the significance of traces from the past. And they are able to debate about this with others.
BA and MA programmes
The Reinwardt Academy's bachelor's programme offers an optional course on heritage wisdom and emotion networks, and collaborations with other educational institutions are considered. On master's degree level, research on the subject has been fruitful. Jacquelien Vroemen, educator and graduate of the master's programme, made a valuable contribution to heritage wisdom research with her book Educatie in erfgoed (Education in Heritage).
Conferences and debate
The Reinwardt Academy and Imagine IC started organizing exploratory research events about heritage making and emotions as early as 2013. A first series of events took place under the title Intangible Cultural Heritage with Pop. The follow-up programme, in 2017 and 2018, was called The Feel of the City. In the autumn of 2018, SPUI25 presented two emotion networking events and in that same year The European Conference Sharing Arts & Heritage was the first in a series of international conferences paying attention to the subject. Emotion networking is now gaining ground internationally.
For questions or comments about heritage wisdom and/or emotion networks, please contact Charlotte Faber firstname.lastname@example.org.