The Research and Mediation Project “A Future for whose Past? The Heritage of Minorities, Fringe Groups and People without a Lobby” for the 50th Anniversary of the “European Architectural Heritage Year” (GER)

The motto of the European Architectural Heritage Year of 1975 was “A Future for our Past”. Fifty years later, in light of the consequences of war, climate change, migration, and displacement, we are faced with the question of whether we can still speak of one past and one heritage. The cultural turn, postcolonialism, and critical heritage studies have changed the concept of heritage from a canonical to a discursive epistemology. Minorities demand that another approach to monuments replaces normative concepts of identity. Baukulturand building conservation challenge the value system of monument preservation.

On the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the EAHY, the research and mediation project A Future for their Past? The Heritage of Minorities, Fringe Groups and People without a Lobby by ICOMOS Suisse and the Chair of Construction Heritage and Preservation at ETH Zurich, asks, whose heritage we are talking about and who determines society’s memory? This shifts the focus from the universalistic value of the European city to a local-in-the-global perspective and from an essentialist to a difference-oriented concept of society. The term identity and approaches to dealing with the heritage of minorities can be found in international charters from the 1990s at the latest. However, these mostly assume collective identities in the integrative sense of the configuration of group-specific cultural phenomena and do not consider concepts of alterity.
The project applies sociohistorical and anthropological research methods alongside theory in heritage and architecture to show how an expanded monument inventory can illustrate decentered identity constructs and pasts. The keynote lecture presents preliminary results from archival research, oral history, and cooperation projects with representatives of minorities, marginalised people and people without a lobby. It aims to stimulate discussion on how heritage institutions can become open to processes of appropriation and attribution by heritage communities. How can these communities become more visible in inventories as well as in decision-making and advisory functions?