How should one 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 and the slavery past, for example, or of discussions about new uses for empty churches. The dialogue about the choices to be made in this area touches upon issues surrounding identity and belonging. And time and time again, we witness how this involves emotional claims being laid on the past.
Civilians of the 21st century will benefit from a better insight into the interplay of forces concerning interests and emotions surrounding traditions, museal collections and old buildings. Insight into the dynamics of heritage formation makes one 'heritage wise'. Heritage wisdom is the aggregate of competencies that enable people to take a critical stance towards heritage and to enter into the debate about it, by having an eye for the social dynamics around heritage and their own position in it. Heritage wisdom is an important competency not just for professionals, but for all of us.
In order to attain a heritage-wise society, a team of researchers headed by Hester Dibbits (click-through link to profile on site) is developing a new method: emotion networking. Emotion networking consists of two known concepts: emotions and networks. Emotion networks designate the varying feelings people experience when confronted with a particular heritage item, which may clash violently. So the two concepts combine into both a noun (emotion networks) and a verb (emotion networking). The verb underlines the practical aspect: emotion networking is an exercise that can provide insight into the complicated interplay of emotions and interests surrounding heritage. The researchers will scrutinise the relationship and the interaction between people among themselves and between people and heritage items, starting from a network approach inspired by the work of Bruno Latour and others. The intended aim is for the participants to notice changes in the internal relationships and to become (more) aware of the complex dynamics surrounding heritage.
A background interview about emotion networks is available here (in Dutch).
Heritage wisdom and emotion networks on the Dutch National Research Agenda
In 2017, the Netherlands witnessed the launch of the Dutch National Research Agenda (NWA) for research and innovation. This research agenda has been subdivided into twenty-five so-called routes, one of which is entitled the 'Living Past' route. This route 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 within the scope of this route, always in collaboration with several other academic, creative and social partners. In the autumn of 2018, for example, there will be two events on the subject at SPUI25 in Amsterdam, and an emotion networking workshop will be held at an international conference on cultural education in Leeuwarden.
Research into emotions around religious heritage
Last year, the research into emotion networks also found a place in the 'Towards Resilient Societies' route of NWA. This route gave a starting pulse to a theme programme focusing on young people: Youngsters in a Resilient Society (JOIN). As part of JOIN, the EmErEd (Emotion Networking Around Heritage in Educational Settings) project focuses on the development of an emotion networking method in heritage education. In this two-year research project, religious heritage will take centre stage. In a series of labs, we intend to investigate what will happen when pupils record the emotions surrounding a specific (heritage) item with their teacher and a heritage educator, and discuss these with them. 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, Marlous Willemsen observed what happened during a series of emotion networking workshops around a replica of the cross from the Dutch televised passion play The Passionwith pupils and teachers from De Dreef (college for practical education, Amsterdam Southeast) as participants. In this phase, the main foci are visualisation, imagination, reflection, the presentation of the multitude of voices, and the shifts that may occur in people's positions. The 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.
Recently, the research team received a KIEM scholarship (Knowledge Innovation Mapping) for the FloHaW 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 museal sector. At present, we are both preparing an international research application and developing a toolkit capable of transforming abstract concepts from the academic field to be applied in 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
The concept of heritage wisdom answers to a specific need of professionals to look at heritage in a new, more dynamic way, and to engage in the dialogue about heritage in an inclusive manner. In collaboration with Imagine IC and some other partners, the Reinwardt Academy offers courses in heritage wisdom to professionals and policymakers, in answer to the abovementioned need. In these courses, emotion networks surrounding specific cases are recorded from a network perspective. The courses will help professionals and policymakers to become more conscious of the historical dynamics around heritage and of their own role in these dynamics.
Teacher training colleges (PABOs) and Curriculum.nu
On a regular basis, courses are also being offered to PABO students to enable future teachers to make their pupils heritage wise. At the same time, there is an active lobby for a firm embedding of heritage education in the new curriculum of primary and secondary schools. These efforts take place on the initiative of a group of heritage education consultants ('Vakoverleg Consulenten Erfgoededucatie'). 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 it with others. The document representing our view on the subject (Heritage Education in the New Curriculum) is available here (in Dutch).
BA and MA programmes
In higher education, emotion networks receive attention on both bachelor's and master's level. The Reinwardt Academy, for example, offers a(n) (optional) course on heritage wisdom and emotion networks in the bachelor's degree programme. Possibilities for collaborations with other teaching establishments are presently considered. On master's degree level, research into emotion networks and heritage wisdom has also proved fruitful. Jacquelien Vroemen, educator and graduate of the international Master of Museology of the Reinwardt Academy, made a valuable contribution to heritage wisdom reseach with her book Educatie in Erfgoed (Education in Heritage).
Conferences and debate
Imagine IC and the Reinwardt Academy started organising exploratory research events about heritage making and emotions as early as 2012. A first series of events took place under the title 'Intangible Cultural Heritage with Pop'. The follow-up programme is called 'Stadsgevoel' (The Feel of the City), featuring episodes in 2017 and 2018. But there is more. In the autumn of 2018, SPUI25 will present two emotion networking events. And ground is also gained internationally. The European Conference Sharing Arts & Heritage, for example, is one of the first in a series of international conferences paying attention to emotion networks and emotion networking.