Anca Claudia Prodan (Cottbus): Theorizing Documentary Heritage: From Normative Perspectives to Heritage Studies

Heritage Studies are a very heterogeneous field of research, including within its range disciplines as varied as natural sciences and the arts. The field, however, has been heavily based on case study research, oriented towards practical interests, and influenced to an important extent by UNESCO’s normative tools for heritage protection and their local impacts around the world.

Theorization has been lagging behind, making heritage scholarship fragmentary, unsystematized, and arbitrary in terms of the disciplinary traditions it draws upon and the subjects studied. Its focus on what could be called “the mainstream heritage discourse”, i.e. subjects related mainly to the built environment and to immaterial culture, have obscured areas less popular in the heritage community, such as those dealing with documents. The purpose of this lecture is to present the notion of documentary heritage, introduced through the UNESCO Memory of the World Programme; to provide a selection of theoretical perspectives for its study, including insights from Information Sciences, Media Studies, Memory Studies and Philosophy; and to reflect on its place and role in heritage research and practice.  

Anca Claudia Prodan, PhD, is assistant professor at the Brandenburg University of Technology Cottbus-Senftenberg, visiting professor at the Latvian Academy of Culture, researcher at the Sorbian Institute and research consultant at the Institute Heritage Studies. Her current research lies at the intersection of cultural, technical and information sciences and she explores the impacts of digital technology on the generation and transmission of culture. Anca has been active in the broad field of Heritage Studies for nearly fifteen years. She contributed to the paradigmatic orientation of Heritage Studies developed by the Institute Heritage Studies; was involved in curriculum design and development in heritage-related study programmes at master’s and doctoral levels; and initiated academic research on the UNESCO Memory of the World Programme. Her activities beyond the academic environment include the management of the project 50 Years World Heritage Convention: Shared Responsibility – Conflict & Reconciliation, and her contribution to the drafting of the 2015 UNESCO Recommendation concerning the preservation of, and access to, documentary heritage including in digital form.

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