Transmitting Contentious Cultural Heritages with the Arts:
From Intervention to Co-Production (2016–2019)

TRACES is a major collaborative research project funded under the EU Horizon 2020 Reflective Society programme: Cultural Heritage and European Identities: Emergence and Transmission of European Cultural Heritage and Europeanization. Its aim is to provide new directions for cultural heritage institutions to contribute productively to evolving European identity and reflexive Europeanization. It does so by tackling the ‘hard-case’ of contentious heritage and developing and analyzing new forms of collaboration between artists, researchers and cultural institutions. It will run from March 2016 until February 2019.

TRACES is led by the University of Klagenfurt (Prof. Klaus Schönberger) and has ten other participating institutions in nine different countries, as well as involving other partners. The Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin (Prof. Sharon Macdonald) leads Work Package 5 Contentious Collections: Research on the Material Culture of Difficult Cultural Heritage and makes a substantial contribution to WP1 Artistic Research: Creative Co-Production beyond Intervention, as well as making smaller contributions to other WPs.

Project website:

This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 693857.

CARMAH Work Packages

WP1 Artistic Research: Creative Co-Production beyond Intervention supervises the establishment of the creative co-productions (CCPs) that lie at the heart of TRACES. These are collaborations between artists, ethnographers, or artist-ethnographers and cultural institutions that seek to tackle specific cases of contentious heritage and explore innovative means of transmitting these to the public.

WP5 Contentious Collections: Research on the Material Culture of Difficult Cultural Heritage supports and researches the work of three CCPs that address contentious collections concerned with the material culture of death, and seeks to provide a comparative and contextualizing analysis of this work. By doing so, it aims to highlight specific problematic issues and potentials for representation involved in such difficult heritage, and to identify and analyze ways in which they can contribute to social reflection. The three CCPs with which WP5 works are the following.


CCP2 Awkward Objects of Genocide: Vernacular Arts of the Holocaust and Ethnographic Museums (Centre for Memory Studies, Jagiellonian University Krakow, Poland) looks at private and museum collections of vernacular Holocaust art in Poland to understand non-professional visual practices undertaken to memorialize the Holocaust. The project will create a dynamic digital collection of such art and a public event. It seeks to extend debate about existing and potential forms of memorializing the Holocaust.

CCP3 Casting Death (Domestic Research Society, Ljubljana, Slovenia) examines collections of death masks in Slovenia. The masks range from the 1880s until the 1980s and are primarily of famous people, and have been variously moved or removed from display and storage. They thus allow an investigation of (often politically sensitive) commemorative practices over time. CCP3 will also create an open access database of the masks as well as public events and exhibitions.

CCP4 Dead Images: the Deracination of the Human Story and its Search for Revivification (Natural History Museum Vienna, Austria; University of Edinburgh, United Kingdom) explores the philosophical, aesthetic, historical and scientific implications of the collections of human skulls (and accompanying photographic collection) of the Natural History Museum Vienna. It will examine repatriation efforts and will establish an educational programme, including a travelling exhibition, on the topic.

All also work with other partners.

Other CCPs

Two other CCPs that are part of WP1 but not 5 are:

CCP1 Absence as Heritage (NGO Hosman Durabil, Mediaș, Romania) examines absent Jewish (and to some extent other) heritage in a multi-ethnic and multi-linguistic area of Transylvania, Romania. It thus poses questions about the potential of heritage to create awareness of multi-ethnic identity possibilities. It involves actual transformation of an abandoned former synagogue complex.

CCP5 Transforming Long Kesh/Maze Prison. A Dialogical Project to Counter the Antagonistic Politics of Architectural and Linguistic Limbo (Ulster University, Northern Ireland) examines the contested site of the former prison blocks from Northern Ireland’s conflicts during 1970s-2000. As well as researching the site and creating a new documentation, it will build a model of potential transformations of the site and an accompanying website, in order to provoke and further investigate debate about the site and how to deal with such contentious heritage.