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'Sensing the past' is an international workshop that offers a forum for exchange between established scholars and early-stage researchers (including (R)MA and PhD students) who apply sensory approaches to their heritage and archaeology research. The workshop is organised by Pamela Jordan (UvA), Sara Mura (UvA) and Prof. Dr. Gert-Jan Burgers (VU) with the support of the ARCHON National Research School of Archaeology, the Amsterdam School for Heritage, Memory and Material Culture, the Amsterdam Centre for Ancient Studies and Archaeology, and the VU Research Institute CLUE+.

Event details of Sensing the past
Start date 7 October 2021
End date 9 October 2021

An increasing number of interdisciplinary approaches to sensory research in humanities has proven productive in decentralize ocular-centric models of experience towards holistic comprehension of historic remains. These innovative perspectives have led to a growing field of inquiry and dispersed collection of investigatory methods to approach senses individually or through their interrelationships (e.g. synesthesia). In so doing, more avenues are widening for identifying undervalued forms of historic communication, quotidian forms of place-making, and carriers of meaning in ancient and historical places that are not visibly accessible in the physical remains. 

Part 1: Online sessions via Zoom

Part 1, held online on 7 and 8 October, will introduce participants to the state-of-the-field debates in experiential archaeology and heritage work. A series of lectures and discussion sessions will be anchored by a keynote address by Prof. Dr. Sue Hamilton (UCL) on 8 October.

Changing visibility of the Fort Bij Uithoorn through time (Map images courtesy of Kadaster)
Changing visibility of the Fort Bij Uithoorn through time (Map images courtesy of Kadaster)

Part 2: Sensory fieldwork at Fort bij Uithoorn

The second part of the workshop, on 9 October, will give participants experiential fieldwork experience by taking part in a sensory walk at the Fort bij Uithoorn, a site built as part of the Amsterdam defense line system and inscribed in the Stelling van Amsterdam UNESCO world heritage designation. Research will be contextualised with a lecture by a local military history expert.

Many of the forts in the Stelling have come under recent revitalisation efforts, which preserve the material composition of the fort but often significantly change the experiential layer. Fieldwork will equip participants to analyse historic sensory contributions to such historic spaces and to contribute to redevelopment dialogues beyond mere material evidence. Safety measures in place due to Covid-19 will be applied.

Keynote speaker

Prof. Dr. Sue Hamilton (University College London)

Invited speakers include

Monika Baumanova (University of West Bohemia)
Emma-Jayne Graham (The Open University)
Matthew Leonard (Cultural Heritage Institute, Swindon)
Jacqueline K. Ortoleva (University of Birmingham)
René G.A. Ros (Specialist, Stelling van Amsterdam)
Ruth Van Dyke (Birmingham University, SUNY)
Caro Verbeek (Vrije Universiteit, Amsterdam)

Submission guidelines

Selected papers will be 20 minutes long followed by group discussion. Abstracts of a maximum of 350 words should be sent to by Sunday, 22 August 2021. Papers are sought that present sensory-based research of the historic built environment from any time period. Pertinent questions to address may include:

  • How can a methodological shift towards sensorial perception shape the applied methods that heritage specialists use in archaeological/heritage investigation?
  • How do sensory approaches affect what archaeological/heritage specialists consider relevant data?
  • How do practitioners manage the ephemerality of sensory experiences?
  • How do heritage specialists ascertain the historic value of contemporary sensory observations?

More information on the programme and registration will be updated here soon.