From 17 to 18 November, four Ph.D. candidates and one postdoctoral researcher from the Leibniz Institute for European History (IEG) Mainz visited the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences (FASoS) for a fruitful one-and-a-half-day symposium on researching the history of cultural and natural heritage conservation at UNESCO.
Several Ph.D. candidates working on UNESCO-related topics at FASoS had encountered individual members of the Leibniz Institute’s project Knowledge of the World - Heritage of Mankind: The History of UNESCO World Cultural and Natural Heritage at different conferences for cultural and environmental history. Soon, plans were made to bridge the contextual and geographical divide, to bring together researchers on natural and cultural heritage from Mainz and Maastricht. Thanks to the support of MACCH and the NWO project Nature’s Diplomats, we could put ideas for such a meeting into practice. The symposium focused on the multifaceted profiles and platforms of international organisations such as UNESCO. A particular emphasis was placed on the negotiations between scientific expertise, public interests, international policy-making and local implementation strategies in UNESCO’s work on the conservation of natural and cultural heritage.
At the centre of the exchange were research presentations by the researchers from Mainz (Elsa Duval, Julia Röttker, Benedetta Serapioni and Elke Ackermann) and from Maastricht (Bart Zwegers, Simone Schleper, Hans Schouwenburg and Thomas Mougey). Subsequent commentaries by Dr. Raf de Bont, Prof. Dr. Ernst Homburg and Dr. Vincent Lagendijk (FASoS) and Prof. Dr. Andrea Rehling (IEG) led to two rounds of in-depths discussions on the politics of conservation expertise and approaches to studying these. Prof. Dr. Kiran Patel (FASoS) opened the symposium by reflecting on the relevance of researching international organisations in times of international instability. Further highlights of the programme included the exploration of Maastricht’s own cultural and natural heritage, and an evening lecture by Dr. Joop de Jong on critical questions related to ownership and democratisation in relation to world heritage.
The symposium, which also attracted several Research Master Students and members from the general public was well received. In the future, we hope to build on this inspiring and fruitful cross-institutional exchange of ideas with further meetings and joint publications.