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Research Centre for Religious Studies Research Centres Centre for Religion and Heritage

The Challenge of Inclusive Heritage

When:Fr 21-04-2023 13:00 - 15:00
Where:Centre for Religion and Heritage, Faculty of Theology and Religious Studies, Oude Boteringestraat 38, 9712 GK Groningen, room 253 and Online
Fresco from Bódvalenke, Hungary
Fresco from Bódvalenke, Hungary, source: Tourism Online - Bódvalenke: with frescoes on the way to world fame (

Celebrating the 50th anniversary of the UNESCO Convention for the Protection of World Cultural and Natural Heritage
Annual Heritage Lecture Centre for Religion and Heritage

Registration: April 17th 2023 at the latest through receptie.ggw
Information: Mathilde van Dijk, mathilde.van.dijk

November 16th, 1972, in Paris, the UNESCO General Conference adopted the Convention for the Protection of World Cultural and Natural Heritage. In many ways, this convention marked a new direction in heritage policies, for instance by stressing the importance of both cultural and natural heritage. A second innovation was how the convention stressed the importance of heritage for communities. This marked the beginning of a shift from heritage as objects (such as buildings) to the people, who defined these objects as constitutive of their heritage and therefore of their identities.  The convention’s primary focus was on material heritage, including monuments, buildings and sites, in which human practices happened or were still happening. From 2003, immaterial heritage was added to the definition. Arguably, UNESCO’s most visible action was the listing of world heritage. However, this catalogue consists of an overwhelming majority of heritage sites in Western Europe and, in second place, North America. Moreover, in some cases, heritage was removed from the list, the carnival of Aelst in Belgium being the best-known example. It was removed from the Representative List of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. All of this illustrates how heritage is contested increasingly.  

On the occasion of the Convention’s anniversary, the Centre for Religion and Heritage invites you to a round table, in which the impact of the Convention will be studied. How did thought and practice around heritage change and what will be needed in the next fifty years? What is the impact of the increasing diversity of societies all over the world and the ecological crisis? We invited four speakers, both researchers and practicioners of heritage:

  • Tharik Hussain (independent author on Muslim heritage in Europe)
  • John Schofield (University of York)
  • Dorka Szucs (educator in Képes, Budapest)
  • Ghyslaine Tromp (Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam)

Tharik Hussain

Tharik Hussain published the acclaimed Minarets in the Mountains. A Journey into Muslim Europe (Chesham: Bradt Travel Guides 2021). He writes: I will provide a brief overview of his work exploring Britain's Muslim heritage in collaboration with minority, grassroots organisations, like the Everyday Muslim Heritage and Archive Project and the Shah Jahan Mosque in the UK, which led to the development of the country’s very first Muslim heritage trails. I will then explain how such work has been empowered by the recent declarations concerning minority religious heritage made at the UNESCO Convention Concerning the Protection of World Cultural Heritage and Natural Heritage, as it has led to UK public funding bodies like the National Lottery Heritage Fund to commission further projects exploring Britain's minority religious and cultural heritage.

John Schofield

Trained as an archeologist, John Schofield (University of York) is a leading researcher in the study of heritage. He writes: On the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the World Heritage Convention it seems timely to critically assess its relevance for society and for the Planet. It is widely acknowledged that the focus of heritage studies and policy is the future, not the past. It is also widely accepted that people are central to how we prioritise our work and that nature and culture cannot be separated - rather, they are integral to one another. Heritage is everywhere and for everybody, tangible and intangible, iconic and mundane. We think about heritage in very different ways now to how we thought about it in 1972. It makes sense therefore that we might think of World Heritage in a very different way. In this short position statement, I will discuss how World Heritage Sites can be used to draw global attention to some of the so-called wicked problems threatening for example social justice and planetary health, and how we might use these iconic sites to trial and promote possible solutions within what has been termed a small-wins framework. This means using World Heritage Sites (such as Galagagos, the Great Barrier Reef or Papahānaumokuākea) not simply as exemplars warranting close protection, but as red flags for the dangers that lie ahead and as places of creativity and experimentation in mitigating those dangers. 

Dorka Szucs

Dorka Szucs (Képes, Budapest) works with heritage of marginalized groups. She writes: Our first objective was to learn how we can promote the identification and use of heritage at a local level. We decided to work with young Roma adults living in the Mónosbél foster home. In the first part of the program, we had training exercises and discussions around the topics of identity and heritage. This was followed by a trip visiting Bódvalenke, the Roma fresco village. This remote village offers an outdoor exhibition presenting the paintings of European Roma painters on the walls of the houses. With the help of these beautiful paintings we could reflect on the life, rituals and dreams of Roma people.In the second phase we intended to learn about the pedagogical usage of cultural heritage: how we can foster inclusion and acceptance by exploring our roots and values. We involved two Roma organisations: the Hungarian Independent Theatre (Roma theatre) and the UCCU Informal Educational Foundation to learn from each other. We then together shared our methodologies with adult trainers and teachers. In our presentation we will share our key learnings and the experience gathered in this process.

Ghyslaine Tromp

Ghyslaine Tromp (Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam) works on projects making the connection between the museum and bicultural youth. She writes: Many young adults in the Netherlands feel like art museums are not a place for them. It’s not a welcoming place, it’s elitist, they feel like they should understand art and behave differently do they don’t stand out. Especially young adults who haven’t visited museums frequently as a child. We see that a big part of this group are people with a bicultural background. There are many reasons for this, but we should focus on how art museums can become more a more  inclusive place where young adults also feel welcome and at ease. There are a number of things young adults would rather do than visit a museum. What are museums doing now to become more relevant for all young adults? How do museums reach, engage with, and involve them? I believe museums must play an active role in this, as most only cater to a select group.