Digital Heritage in Cultural Conflicts (DigiCONFLICT)

Lead Research Organisation: De Montfort University
Department Name: School of Humanities


DigiCONFLICT will explore the impact of digital heritage on contemporary engagements with the past in specific national frameworks in Poland, Sweden and Israel. Focusing on oral history, photography and multimedia museums as some of the most common media used to digitalise cultural heritage, the project responds to the Call's 'Critical Engagements with Digital Heritage' trajectory, endeavouring to challenge widespread claims about the universality and democratising abilities of digital heritage. Even though digital heritage maintains the potential to increase cohesion across nations and social groups, it is equally used to cement elite power structures, define what counts as cultural heritage, and determine whose cultural heritage is worthy of preservation. While acknowledging the role digital heritage plays in shaping and distributing cultural heritage, the project's point of departure is that digital heritage cannot be considered in separation from historical, cultural and national contexts. The project has three main aims: 1) to explore how national politics affect digital definitions of cultural heritage, 2) to investigate who creates and engages with digital heritage, and how, and 3) to study how the scope and value of cultural heritage are being negotiated and reformulated in a digital context. The consortium will elaborate innovative research approaches to digital heritage through analysis of policy documents related to the case studies, to understand how specific institutions, governments and communities define, mark, and share cultural heritage. To achieve its aims, the consortium will employ interviews with professionals and members of communities who participate in the digitalisation of cultural heritage. It will study what parameters affect the creation of digital heritage products, inquire what is gained and lost when cultural heritage becomes digital, and explore who the main beneficiaries are. Findings will mainly be disseminated via scholarly and mainstream publications, workshops, and a dedicated interactive website.

Planned Impact

At the end of the first year of the project the Swedish team will organize a public workshop at the Nordic Museum for professionals in the cultural heritage sector focused on oral history, life stories and exclusions and inclusions in and by the digital heritage. Members of the public and especially those who have contributed to the ongoing development of the museum's oral history and life stories collections will be invited to attend and contribute. This will not only create an opportunity to communicate scholarly research results to professionals in the cultural heritage sector but also to learn from their practical experiences and enhance scholarly understanding of their expectations of digital heritage and the challenges they encounter when digitalizing cultural heritage.

In the second year of the project the Polish team will organise a workshop on the ethical and legal issues of digitalisation and multimedia museums. The workshop will discuss the ethical and legal implications of the digitisation of private memories, photographs, everyday objects. It will also consider Multimedia Museums, their Oral and Visual History Archives, and digital platforms in the framework of museum ethics, human rights and the societal roles of cultural heritage. The workshop will involve museum professionals, stakeholders, and scholars (in particular lawyers dealing with human rights, cultural heritage, copyrights). It will also involve representatives of communities of participants in the creation of multimedia museums and cultural heritage digital platforms, who will be accessed by following the existing institutional protocols implemented by their outreach teams.

Towards the end of the second year of the project, the UK team will organise a two-day international conference. The UK team is well-connected with many scholars and professionals who lead some of the most influential museums, galleries and archives in the country. The conference will constitute a framework to start sketching out and disseminating some of the project's most important findings as it reaches to an end. It will enable the widest range possible of scholars, curators, archivists, policymakers and stakeholders to introduce DigiCONFLICT and its expanded research community to nuanced case studies from national and international sociocultural environments. The conference will thus help connect scholars and professionals from multiple social and cultural backgrounds with a view to creating pathways for the development and sustainability of legacy for the DigiCONFLICT research project.

The project will also involve the larger public through engagement with mainstream media outlets and the organization of public events addressed to schools and the Third Age. The UK team will hold a series of master classes in secondary schools in the multicultural city of Leicester, discussing with youngsters and demonstrating how digital technologies complicate relationships between individuals, communities, histories and the experience of culture. The Polish team will organise in collaboration with a local public museum institution (ex. The National Museum in Warsaw) a cycle of popular public lectures entitled This is Our History addressed to the Third Age. The Swedish team will organize a cycle of get-togethers entitled, This is Our Cultural Heritage, for secondary school students at different places (Botkyrka in cooperation with the Multicultural Centre, AP of the project) and Växjö (organized by researcher Jesper Johansson from the Swedish team) in Sweden. The main aim of all these regional events will be to encourage these groups to engage in active reflection, participation and contribution to the creation and shaping of digital heritage.


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