Heritage Futures


( Research )

Our work on Reimagining Museums for Climate Action has been significantly informed by prior research and collaborations undertaken as part of the AHRC-funded Heritage Futures research programme.

The Heritage Futures research programme set out to explore how heritage practices, broadly defined, contribute to the making of future worlds. From 2015 to 2019, an interdisciplinary, international team of 16 researchers (led by Principal Investigator Rodney Harrison) collaborated with 25 international partner organisations and many others to investigate heritage and heritage-like practices in a broad range of fields and contexts, and to explore the potential for innovation and creative exchange within and across them.

The research programme aimed to:

• Document and analyse practices by which pasts, presents and futures are assembled across a range of different heritage and heritage-like domains, by exploring them through mixed ethnographic and creative visual methods, in comparative perspective;

• Draw on this empirical research to understand and theorise the values that are generated by the work that is undertaken in caring for futures, within each of these heterogeneous domains; and

• Explore, in partnership with its project partners, how those different practices of assembling and caring for the future might be creatively redeployed to generate innovation, foster resilience and encourage sustainability.

Henry McGhie and Rodney Harrison co-curated a major exhibition hosted by the Manchester Museum which was inspired by the Heritage Futures research programme. The exhibition was developed over the period 2017–18 with inputs from other members of the research programme and museum staff and hosted by the museum from December 2018 until the museum closed due to COVID lockdown restrictions in March 2020.

Heritage Futures was succeeded by the follow-on project Landscape Futures and the Challenge of Change: Towards Integrated Cultural/Natural Heritage Decision Making, funded under the AHRC Landscape Decisions/Changing Landscapes Follow-on Fund for Impact and Engagement Call. This project was awarded to a project team which included Principal Investigator Caitlin DeSilvey (University of Exeter); Co-Investigators Rodney Harrison (University College London), Hannah Fluck (Historic England), Rosie Hails (The National Trust), Ingrid Samuel (The National Trust), and the organisation Natural England as project partner.

The final publication from the Heritage Futures research programme is available for free in open access from UCL Press at the link below. Further information is available on the Heritage Futures website.

Harrison, R., DeSilvey, C., Holtorf, C., Macdonald, S., Bartolini, N., Breithoff, E., Fredheim, H., Lyons, A., May, S., Morgan, J. and Penrose, S. 2020. Heritage Futures: Comparative Approaches to Natural and Cultural Heritage Practices . London: UCL Press.