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Experiencing the Past: Heritage, Tourism and Intermediality


Dr. Gert Jan van Wijngaarden

Members of the research group

dr. Y. van Dijk
dr. L.A. Dirven
prof.dr. M. Gnade
dr. M.H.E. Hoijtink
prof.dr. R. v.d. Laarse
dr. H. van Londen
dr. E.L. Masson
dr. C.U. Noack
dr. D. Rijser
dr. I.A.M. Saloul
dr. G.J.M. van Wijngaarden
External Members:
H. Henrichs (UU)
J. Kolen (VU)
W. Willems (UL)

Description of the research programme of the research group

The ways in which people perceive and experience the past is structured by different media, such as education, mass media, museums, literature, folklore and material remains. In addition, tourism has become important as one of the primary means by which people’s experiences of the past is reproduced. Increasingly, the cultural heritage agendas in many countries are determined by the economic possibilities of tourism. Moreover, in tourism the various media are actively selected and operationalized in order to provide people with experiences of the past.
The aim of this research group is to address the intermediality (both remediation and media transposition) that is the background to people’s experiences of the past. For example, we aim to explore the ways into which immaterial heritage (stories and literature, such as those of ancient Troy in Turkey) are used in modern media and commoditized to material remains in heritage and tourism strategies. The focus on intermediality makes clear that we will be searching for spatial, literary, visual and performative connections and transformations. The group aspires to provide a network that will enable participants to benefit from each other’s expertise in different terrains in order to explore intermediality in heritage. Rather than limiting itself to particular disciplines, or media, the group will concentrate its activities around three broad themes:

  1. Experiencing Authenticity: Various media project different realities of the past, leading to conflicting claims on authenticity. The appropriation of views on the past is subject to commodification by the various stakeholders, resulting in contested experiences of the past. The group specifically aims to study such commodification and the role of different media in the production of historical authenticity.
  2. Politics of identity: The experience of the past is closely connected to the identities of different groups. The past operates on a range of geographies of scale, ranging from the local to the global. Control and management of the past as it is presented in different media is highly subject to politics of identities. The research group aims to study the frameworks of institutions and practices through which such control and management is exerted in different media.
  3. Materiality: The past is experienced through different media, which have greatly differing material properties, ranging from physical remains in the landscape to stories, such as mythology and oral history. The research group aims to investigate the active role of the material characteristics in intermedial interactions through which the past is performed.

Envisaged results

The group’s activities are closely associated with and indeed follow-up on the Huizinga research School group Heritage, Identity and Tourism. In this field, conventions and congresses are organized on a regular basis. In 2010, the group has also initiated an international monograph series Landscape & Heritage Studies in collaboration with VU-CLUE and Amsterdam University Press. The research group is also related to the workgroup Visual Culture, which is working with several partners in the field of research into the legacy of the Second World War, such as within the research cluster Heritage & Memory of Conflict & War at the VU, and the NWO programs Dynamics of Memory (2009-2015) and Terrorscapes (2011-2013). The following deliverables can be expected:

  • Series of lectures and debates by members of the group
  • Articles in peer-reviewed journals
  • Individual PhD proposals
  • Programmatic research applications at NWO (VENI, VIDI and Vrije Competitie) and international finding bodies (ERC)
  • Collaboration with both national universities (VU, UU,UL, University of Maastricht) and international relations (the universities of Lille and Valenciennes, several Belgian universities, University of Çanakkale, Turkey)

Work plan and time schedule

The duration of the project is a four-year program from 2014 until 2018, with possible extension and development into new related research projects.

Societal relevance

Heritage, tourism and intermedialty have become central concepts in the humanities and social sciences. The project addresses issues of cultural complexity tied to a variety of landscapes: sites and material heritage, and relates these to the politics of identity formation, cultural diversity and the conflicts of representation, the integration of new visions of national identity and citizenship. Knowledge and competence in heritage, tourism and intermediality are of vital importance for contemporary society, as a basis for policy makers regarding issues pertaining to plural societies and for enhancing people’s awareness of issues of cultural complexity. The project seeks to move beyond the academic levels and collaborate with professionals working in the field. This field-oriented and multilateral approach generates scholarly and societal relevance and value in current political, educational and industrial debates.