AHRC award for Assembling Alternative Futures for Heritage

19 September 2014

he Nordic Genetic Resource Center, one of the research team’s partners, is responsible for the operation and management of the Svalbard Global Seed Vault. The seed vault aims to safeguard the world’s most important plant genetic resources for food and agriculture with a maximum level of security (Photo: Mari Tefre/Svalbard Global Seed Vault)

Rodney Harrison has been awarded a £1.6million AHRC Large Grant under the 'Care for the Future: Thinking forward through the past' theme, for the research programme ‘Assembling Alternative Futures for Heritage’.

Assembling Alternative Futures for Heritage (AAFH) is an interdisciplinary research programme which aims to develop a broad, international and cross-sectoral comparative framework for understanding 'heritage' in its most expansive sense.

It begins from the premise that heritage is fundamentally concerned with assembling futures. The collaborative, multi-sited research programme will thus compare a range of conventional and unconventional future-making practices from a number of different heritage and heritage-like fields. The research programme aims to facilitate co-creation and sharing of practical knowledge across these various domains of practice which are rarely considered collectively to contribute to the development of innovative and sustainable approaches to heritage conservation.

Drawing on a range of experimental and more conventional methodologies based in visual, material and sensory ethnography and contemporary archaeology, and incorporating documentary research, creative artistic practice, film making, collaborative mapping, trans-sectoral knowledge exchange events and data-gathering and generating exhibitionary experiments, this constitutes one of the largest critical comparative studies of heritage and heritage-like practices to have ever been undertaken.

As Principal Investigator for this research programme, Rodney is joined by Co-Investigators Caitlin DeSilvey (University of Exeter), Cornelius Holtorf (Linnaeus University, Sweden) and Sharon Macdonald (University of York), Senior Research Assistant Martha Fleming, Senior Creative Fellow Antony Lyons, and a team of postdoctoral researchers and PhD students. They will work closely with more than 20 academic and non-academic partner organisations and will be guided in their work by an esteemed advisory board drawn from senior representatives of a number of their partner organisations, representing a range of different fields of practice, to ensure their research has wide impact amongst practitioners, policy makers and publics.


As Rodney has indicated:

  • "This constitutes one of the largest critical comparative studies of heritage and heritage-like practices to have ever been undertaken. I am very excited to have been given the opportunity to work with such a broad range of partner institutions and researchers on this significant programme of research, which will help us to understand how current speculations regarding what (and how) to conserve in the present actively shape our material, ecological and social futures."

The AHRC Large Grant (AH/M004376/1) contributes approximately £1.6million to an overall project cost of approximately £2.4million, including in-kind and actual partner contributions of over £220,000 and three additional PhD studentships, funded separately by Exeter, York and UCL respectively.

The research programme will run for 4 years, beginning in April 2015. 

Read more

Advisory Board members

  • Dr Gustavo Araoz (President, ICOMOS International)
  • Dr Tim Badman (Director, World Heritage Programme, IUCN)
  • Professor Francesco Bandarin (Università Iuav di Venezia; formerly Assistant Director General-Culture, UNESCO)
  • Dr Loyd Grossman (Chairman, The Heritage Alliance, UK)
  • Dr Saida Laârouchi Engström (Vice President for Strategy and Programmes, SKB, Sweden)
  • John Orna-Ornstein (Director of Museums, Arts Council England)
  • Dr Ingrid Samuel (Head of Historic Properties, National Trust UK)

Partner Organisations