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The annual Universeum meeting on university heritage now and in the future looks a little dull

By January 13, 2010 No Comments

I’ve just received the announcement for the 11th annual meeting of Universeum (the European network for university heritage) in my inbox.

The meeting will be held in Uppsala, 17-20 June, on the theme ‘University Heritage: Present and Future’. The organisers invite submissions of papers devoted to “academic heritage in its broadest sense, tangible and intangible, namely the preservation, study, access and promotion of university collections, museums, archives, libraries, and buildings of historical and scientific significance”.

Academic heritage institutions traditional roles are collecting, preservation, research and teaching. Increasingly, they are expected to develop public programs and exhibitions as well as to assume a stronger role in marketing their university’s identity. These roles can pose considerable challenges. How can we position ourselves within the growing constraints of generating external funding, creating new audiences and keeping our institutions’ identity?

The present and future status of university museums is a very important topic for a museum like ours (we are a unit under the University of Copenhagen). But frankly, this call doesn’t sound as inspiring as it could have been. I had expected a more clearly defined theme for the meeting, focusing more on, for example, the complicated transition phase that university museums are in at the moment — squeezed as they are between, on the one hand, schemes for national research governance based on scientometrics etc. and, on the other hand, new market-oriented and populist national museum policies. Both trends are eroding traditional scholarly ideals for the production and preservation of and engagement with the academic heritage.

And frankly, the format of the meeting looks pretty uninspiring too. Proposals are invited for the usual 20 min (including 5 min discussion!) presentation format only. I would have expected a somewhat more imaginative spectrum of formats, like panels, group discussions, small workshops on selected topics, etc. I don’t expect online Twitter-sessions, but if Universeum has the ambition to set agendas for the future of European university museums, it should strive for sharper thematic programmes and a more up-to-date meeting format.

But one can of course be happily surprised. And Uppsala is absolutely gorgeous in early June. So if you haven’t been discouraged by this post, send your proposal + short bio + short mention of research interests to universeum@gustavianum.uu.se — before 15 March, 2010. 

More info here: http://www.gustavianum.uu.se/universeum2010.

Thomas Söderqvist

Author Thomas Söderqvist

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