Universiteit Leiden

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Archaeological Heritage and Society

About the Department

The Department of Archaeological Heritage and Society focuses on the relationships between past and present, the role of heritage in society, and how heritage conceived broadly can contribute to improving quality of life.

The Department of Archaeological Heritage and Society has developed four main research lines, which are attached to two chair groups (Archaeological Heritage Management and Heritage and Rights of indigenous Peoples).

Main lines of research and education

Our research is concerned with the theoretical, interpretative and social dimensions of heritage and how these relate to the quality of life.

Our research is concerned with the theoretical, interpretative and social dimensions of heritage and how these relate to the quality of life. A central tenet of our department is the potential of archaeology, heritage of place and landscape (including water systems) to create a better, more sustainable and livable environment for the future.  We are also interested in the rights of communities to access and engage with their heritage, and community engagement is central to our activities. Collectively we are not only interested in what heritage in its various forms can contribute to societal well-being, but also what society and the non-academic community can contribute to our research. How can heritage governance be more equitable and representative? How can we create better conditions for anchoring social memory, local interest and identity in the world of ancient places and objects? These are some of the questions addressed in our department’s work.

Together with the Centre for Global Heritage and Development, the department aims to make cutting-edge research relevant for education. It has developed various international networks along these lines. Please click on the lines of research above for further information.

Archaeological heritage management

Archaeological heritage management is a very broad field of research. It is concerned with the identification, protection, management and preservation of the material remains of human activity in the past (of whatever period and in whichever region of the world) and with the interaction that this involves with all kinds of stakeholders. At present the research topics of the archaeological heritage management section vary from the modern management of archaeological resources (sites and finds) and requirements of sustainable development, to the challenges of commercial archaeology and the endeavor to find efficient methods of public engagement. This encompasses archaeological resources on both land and underwater.

Heritage and rights of indigenous peoples

The Heritage and rights of indigenous peoples focuses on the living heritage of indigenous peoples and its safeguarding, connecting the past and the present in local communities between conflict and cooperation. The concept of ‘living heritage’ is very present in this line of research and education. Archaeologists and anthropologists often encounter manifestations of cultural continuity: descendant communities maintain and cultivate traditional knowledge, religious ideas and customs that go back to ancient times. This living heritage offers opportunities for innovative research. It may throw light, for example, on the meaning and function of archaeological artefacts and moments today, on traditional medicine and its healing properties or on sustainable practices in a world of increasing environmental degradation.

Landscape, heritage and governance

Landscape, heritage and governance is an interdisciplinary field of research combining archaeology, cultural geography, environmental sciences, place-making and law. It focuses on diverse but interrelated issues of past land use, perceptions of landscape, landscape assessment, land rights and heritage governance. The link between landscape and well-being has gained increasing credence in recent years. Landscapes, in this context, are perceived as both historically produced and socially constituted within people’s life worlds. This line of research encompasses historical processes (law, mapping) in shaping not only the physical landscape but concepts of landscape. It focuses on the many ways in which landscape, heritage and biographies of place can be used to create a better, more sustainable living environment for the future.

Museum studies

Museum Studies looks at museological practices from both historical and anthropological perspectives. The teaching program focuses on collecting practices and the history of museums from antiquity to the present, as well as critical museology and community engagement. Current research explores topics such as the historical biographies of objects and collections, new forms of community engagement in contemporary museums, the politics of representation and self-representation, and issues of authority, control and inclusion/exclusion.

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