Dealing with Damage. War and Destruction: Museums between loss and remembrance

Date:1. February 2016
Location:HTW Berlin
Wilhelminenhof Campus, hall B1

Seiteninhalt

Topic

Wars, including the war in Syria, do not only claim human lives. In the wake of war, cultural heritage is destroyed and with it, cultural identities are lost.  The consequences of armed conflict and the challenges they pose for the future are more relevant today than ever before: the refugee crisis has shown as much.

The symposium aims to engage with the following questions: How do museums deal with the ongoing loss of cultural heritage? How do they participate in saving and reestablishing cultural heritage? How do they deal with the loss and remembrance of the irrecoverably lost – be it artifacts or identities?

What comes after the damage and destruction of symbols of cultural identity? How can we understand the painful impact of war? And how can we grasp the absence of something that no longer exists? At this point, museums come into focus as places that not only preserve but also function as a platform for the renegotiation and mediation of cultural identity. They are particularly called for when there is an urgent need to deal with issues of remembrance and trauma.

Programme

9.00 - 9.45Reception and registration
10.00Address of welcome from the programme director Prof. Dr. Oliver Rump and the student organisers of the symposium 

War and Destruction: Protecting cultural heritage – projects and strategies

10.15Syria: dealing with destroyed and endangered world cultural heritage – between and helplessness and hope (in German) | Prof. Dr. Kay Kohlmeyer, HTW Berlin
11.00The Syrian Heritage Archive Project (in German)| Issam Ballouz and Dr. Karin Pütt, German Archaeological Institute and Museum for Islamic Art, Berlin
11.45Coffee break
12.00What can the civil society do from outside the country to protect the Cultural Heritage during the conflict? The case of Heritage for Peace NGO | Isber Sabrine, Heritage for Peace, Berlin
12.45Lunch break, Catering and Viewing of the study programme exhibition

Loss and remembrance: The limits of presentation

14.15Thinking the unbearable | Dr. Felicitas Heimann-Jelinek, xhibit, Vienna
15.15Coffee break
15.30Into the Void: Traumatic Histories, Social Contestation, And The Safe-Enough Museum (National September 11 Memorial & Museum, The Freedom Park South Africa)(in English) | Tom Hennes, Thinc Design, New York City

Dealing with Damage

16.15Panel discussion | Topic: Dealing with current loss of cultural heritage
Host: Prof. Dr. Dr. Friederike Fless, Präsidentin DAI
17.15 - 18.00Conclusion and Farewell Drinks

Registration

If you are interested to join as a participant of the symposium, please sent an email with your name, contact and (if applicable) your institution to: anmeldung_symposium_htw@mail.de. The symposium is free of charge, the number of participants is limited.

Concept

Wars, including the war in Syria, do not only claim human lives. In the wake of war, cultural heritage is destroyed and with it, cultural identities are lost. The deliberate destruction of World Heritage Sites and the theft of cultural artifacts are part of ISIS strategy. Historical sites and museums are destroyed and looted - valuable artifacts are sold on the illegal art market to finance the ongoing conflict. An end is nowhere in sight.

To document and conserve the tangible and intangible heritage of humankind is one of the essential tasks of museums. Yet in the face of war and the plight of the people affected by it, this task might seem negligible, even inappropriate considering that lives are lost in the conflict. But in the long-run the consequences of armed conflict and the challenges they pose for the future are more relevant today than ever before: the refugee crisis has shown as much.

After the destruction of Aleppo and Palmyra the symposium wants to explore how  international experts in and outside the museum, politicians and archaeologists deal with the conflicts and the challenges they pose. What options do we have to stop or at least reduce the destruction of museums and archaeological sites and the sale of cultural artifacts on the illegal art market? In what way can culturally valuable objects be protected and, if necessary, be removed from conflict zones and transported to safe havens? What projects are already offering support and how is the assistance designed?

The symposium aims to engage with the following questions: How do museums deal with the ongoing loss of cultural heritage? How do they participate in saving and reestablishing cultural heritage? How do they deal with the loss and remembrance of the irrecoverably lost – be it artifacts or identities? What comes after the damage and destruction of the symbols of cultural identity? How can we understand the painful impact of war? And how can we grasp the absence of something that no longer exists?

At this point, museums come into focus as places that not only preserve but also function as a platform for the renegotiation and mediation of cultural identities. They are particularly called for when there is an urgent need to deal with issues of remembrance and trauma.

While the first part of the symposium deals with the possibilities of protection and documentation - physical or digital - the second part will focus on the part museums play as places that engage with war and destruction in their exhibitions. Museums can function as democratic platforms that offer safe spaces to (re-)negotiate and (re-)affirm cultural identities. Thus museums are constantly confronted with diverse stakeholders. The symposium aims to identify what challenges lie ahead for museums relating to the representation and exhibition of war and terror. What are the difficulties and limits in the face of overwhelming emotions and suffering? How can absence be made present without becoming unbearable? How could programs or exhibitions be designed to successfully deal with the issues surrounding war, destruction and the questions of loss and remembrance?