Centre for Critical Heritage Studies


Svalbard global seed vault (Photo credit: Rodney Harrison)


Successful Awards 2022

Successful Awards 2021-22

Creating accessible digital images for visually impaired audiences and researchers

Dr Rafie Cecilia, UCL Institute of Archaeology & Prof Theano Moussouri, UCL Institute of Archaeology

marble owl sculpture
 Collecting organisations and academic publishers use images both as primary sources or 'objects' in their own rights and as contextualising media to enhance the meaning of objects and/or text. However, despite the central role visual images play in meaning-making and the importance of being able to critically engage with the material, visually impaired (VI), as visitors and researchers, often cannot access images, due to lack of adequate textual description.This project aims to investigate what prevents collecting institutions and academic publications from providing comprehensive information about digital images in accessible textual formats; what type of textual interpretation/information VI people would find useful and facilitate meaning-making and research; and to develop accessibility guidelines for the textual interpretation of images for museum/heritage professionals and academic publishers. The project will investigate issues around digital practices and audience responses, using the methods of participatory interviews and focus groups. The research will be a collaboration with UCL units and collecting institutions, such as the Global Disability Innovation Hub, UCL LCCOS, UCL Culture and UCL Special Collections, and the editorial team of ‘Curator: The Museum Journal’, one of the most prestigious museum studies journals globally published by John Wiley & Sons. The project aims to produce guideline documents for cultural heritage professionals and publishers of academic journals in the cultural sector. Research findings will be disseminated through peer-reviewed publications and conference presentations.


Award : £2168.79
Image: A visitor handling a marble owl sculpture in the V&A Cast Courts  © Rafie Cecilia

Counter mapping diaspora and queer communities’ living heritage in Sheffield 

Dr Catalina Ortiz, UCL Development Planning Unit, Prof Kalliopi Fouseki, UCL Institute for Sustainable Heritage  and Dr Natalia Villamizar Duarte, UCL Development Planning Unit 
Dr Giorgio TalocciL & aia Garcia Fernandez, UCL Development Planning Unit
Akil Scafe-Smith & Seth Scafe-Smith, Resolve Collective 
Rob J Cotterell, SADACCA 
Katie Mathews, Gut Level 

Official heritage sites, narratives and archives often reproduce and reinforce heteropatriarchal and racist assumptions. As we reckon with racial justice and gendered oppressions, this project will use a counter mapping approach to reveal the living heritage of diaspora and queer communities in Sheffield. We use counter mapping to expose broader relations of power and collaboration within, and between, communities as well as with other urban actors. We seek to challenge logics of ordering and fixed geographies by documenting experiences, practices, and relations that are at the centre of the production of space.  

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This project is framed under the MSc Building and Urban Design in Development [BUDD] Practice Engagement Project that will collaborate with Resolve Collective, an interdisciplinary design collective that combines architecture, engineering, technology, and art to address social challenges; and two community organisations in Sheffield: SADACCA and Gut Level. With this broad alliance we aim to learn from diasporic and queer communities' legacies and stories to question traditional practices of urban design which often lacks understanding of the spatial heritage of diverse communities. Furthermore, we intent to challenge narratives about stigma by focusing on the living heritage of these communities, particularly around the continuities of systems of care, community connections, use and livelihoods, and memory.
To display the cultural richness and contributions of diaspora and queer communities to the city, we will produce a digital atlas of living heritage and a mobile analogue artifact to display the counter mapping proposals. We will also document the project’s methodological strategy to contribute to examining the traditional roles of experts in identifying and defining heritage and the use of creative and participatory processes to trace living heritage practices. 


Award : £2700.44
Photo: © Resolve Collective

Crafting Subversion: an exhibition at the SOAS Brunei Gallery from 21 April-25 June 2022

Jagjeet Lally, UCL History & Pragya Dhital, Former IAS-UCL Visiting Fellow

Crafting subversion, a two-month exhibition in SOAS’s Brunei Gallery celebrating Indian radical print and the London émigré ‘origins’ and global spread of the cyclostyle technology used to produce it (the ‘Gestetner’ – as the best-known example of this technology in Britain is known, after its Tottenham-based Hungarian-Jewish inventor).  Originally invented as a bureaucratic technology, to facilitate office work, the potentialities of this simple handheld duplicating technology were quickly grasped by those involved in underground print production across the world (from zines to samizdat). 

selection of cyclostyled magazines from UCL's Small Press collection
It will include underground literature produced and collected during the Indian Emergency of 1975-77 by Ram Dutt Tripathi, a former BBC journalist who was imprisoned for his involvement in what has been described as India’s ‘second Independence struggle’; material from Haringey Museum’s Gestetner archives; publications proscribed in colonial India from the British Library; cyclostyled magazines from UCL’s Small Press Collection; samples of samizdat literature from SSEES library; and a digital artwork by Delhi-based artists Raqs Media Collective, an animated facsimile of a handprint of a Bengali peasant, Raj Konai, which they found in UCL’s Francis Galton archives. 
Pragya has been planning this exhibition since 2018, when she first approached the Brunei Gallery with ideas based on her research on the Indian emergency and proscribed publications in colonial India. The latter was the focus of a previous IAS-UCL conference, Insurgency in the Archives (2018), proceedings of which were published in a special section of History Workshop Journal (2020). 
The project will encourage more imaginative forms of engagement with a wider range of archival material, inspired by the craft of Indian writers and media artists. 

Award : £4000
Photo: © a selection of cyclostyled magazines from UCL's Small Press collection 

Decolonising UCL: what to do about Phineas? 

Emilia Kingham, UCL Culture & Jill Saunders, UCL Institute of Archaeology
Co-convener: Yee Hang Merry Chow, Aparna Dhole, Hadas Misgav, Dean Sully & Freya Sackville West,UCL Institute of Archaeology

Phineas is a large, wooden, polychrome statue memorialising the Boer War that since 1900, has held an established position within the genealogy of student experience at UCL. In 2020, UCL Students Union voted to remove the wood carving of Phineas from public display, as a response to concerns about how UCL presents itself to the world and accounts for its past behaviours. Concern around UCL’s dark pasts, and a desire to transform institutions and curricula in relation to contemporary ideas of social justice, have led to an intense focus on decolonising agendas.  The Phineas statue is currently crated and stored in the basement of the Student Union, its future use undecided. The question remains what to do about Phineas’ statue?  The project will seek to explore the consequences of creating absences and alternative presences caused by removing statues, through panel discussion, exhibition/intervention, public engagement, and student involvement through online platforms.  It will consider conventional and more radical options for collection and disposal of these objects, focused on the current imperative of caring for Phineas’ statue.  This CCHS funded project will deliver a public encounter with the Phineas statue as a temporary display in order to instigate discussion and disseminate feedback via social media and website platforms.  A hybrid panel discussion with guest experts will be convened to focus the responses, and a report of the outcomes of the project conversations will be presented to UCL Culture and the Student Union as a context for decision making about Phineas’ future.  



Check out the following websites:

Award : £2193
Image:  © Students'Union UCL

Tracing the everyday sensory heritage of Kolkata streets 

Raktim Ray, PI, Lecturer, Bartlett Development Planning Unit, UCL, UK
Rishika Mukhopadhyay, Co I, Teaching Fellow, Department of Geography, Durham University
Sayantan Das, Co I, Assistant Professor, Dum Dum Motijheel College, Kolkata, India
Nilanjan Das, Co I, Independent Artist and Trustee Hamdasti Artist Collective, Kolkata, India

The project as part of a public engagement activity co-curates a participatory archive of the urban sensory heritage of Kolkata, India. Moving beyond the tangible and intangible binaries of heritage it looks at urban heritage as a constellation of overlapping and contesting modes of senses felt through sound and odours. By unsettling the conservationist paradigm of heritage, the project not only democratises heritage-based archive building process but also creates a multi-layered understanding of heritage sensibility in spaces outside the official idiom of heritage. The project traces, records and documents everyday urban soundscapes through street cries, colloquially known as ‘pheriwalla r daak’ (cry of the hawkers or street vendors) and everyday activities like street bathing, street cleaning with brooms etc. Further, it will be an initiation towards curating smell maps of various urban neighbourhoods in the city. From bazaars of spices to fish markets to the smell of clay, leather, and conch shells in urban craft clusters, to funeral ghats by the river, to the garbage dump on the corner of a blind lane each space evokes particular memories and nostalgia. The project explores these personal connections with the specific spaces and neighbourhoods forged through smell and sound which stand radically opposite to expert driven heritage discourse in the city.  To do so the project will a) engage with the public and create a platform for recognition of everyday urban heritage of the ‘ordinary’ b) curate a walk along with an exhibition in Kolkata navigating and experiencing the smell and soundscape of the city and c) co-create a participatory archive of sensory heritage of the urban everyday through QGIS. 
The project speaks directly to the larger research theme of ‘Curating the city’ in the Centre for Critical Heritage Studies. It decentres the idea of urban heritage production from built heritage sites to people’s everyday sensory attachment with the city. Creative modes of engagement and participatory mapping with a wide range of communities from Kolkata place this project within the cutting-edge research frontiers of critical heritage studies.     
•    Creation of a generative open-ended web-based archive of the smell and sound of the urban ordinary 
•    A walking tour of the street-based exhibition 
•    Making of pamphlets and brochures involving the public to rethink the multi-layered urban heritage 
•    A collaborative research article on the methodology of creating an open-ended archive 
•    The project will be a pilot study for the preparation of an AHRC grant application on urban living heritage in the postcolonial context

Award : £2168.79
Photo: A Traditional Brass Utensils Shop in Chitpur Road © Rishika Mukhopadhyay

Guarani and Kaiowá Virtual Museum: Collaborative Approaches to Critical Heritage

Raffaella Fryer-Moreira | PhD Researcher at UCL Anthropology / Cofounder and Director of UCL Multimedia Anthropology Lab
Jaqueline Aranduhá | Member of Kuñangue Aty Guasu - The Great Assembly of Guarani and Kaiowá Women
Doriano Morales Arce | Member of Retomada Aty Jovem - The Guarani and Kaiowá Youth Council
Luan Iturve | Member of Retomada Aty Jovem - The Guarani and Kaiowá Youth Council
Fabiana Assis Fernandes | President of the Institute for the Development of Art and Culture 

A woman wearing a VR headset
How can the museum be reimagined from the perspectives of Guarani and Kaiowá indigenous communities in Brazil? The Guarani and Kaiowá Virtual Museum project aims to support Guarani and Kaiowá communities preserve their cultural and ecological knowledge and heritage, in a context where ecological decimation, humanitarian crisis, and escalating land conflicts have led to violent attacks against traditional communities and shamans. By inviting Guarani and Kaiowá shamans to take an active role in the creative direction, curation, and narration of the Guarani and Kaiowá Virtual Museum space, this project seeks to facilitate the collaborative development of new methods of participative critical heritage and work with communities to rethink the ways heritage can be presented. In doing so, we aim to question museum models which exclude community members from the curatorial narratives through which their heritage is preserved and displayed, challenging heritage frameworks which deny participation in the imagination of our collective futures.

This global collaboration draws together members of Guarani and Kaiowá communities - both shamans/elders and local youth - with the interdisciplinary team of postgraduate students that make up the UCL Multimedia Anthropology Lab (UCL MAL), including anthropologists, artists, computer scientists, geographers, historians, translators, among others. The project builds on an 18 month period of research and development which took place through a series of pilot projects in 2021, supported by the British Museum’s Endangered Material Knowledge Programme, UCL Grand Challenges, and UCL Global Engagement.  Thanks to support from the Centre for Critical Heritage Studies Small Grants, this year the project aims to finalise the VR production process and present the Guarani and Kaiowá Virtual Museum to a global audience. Over the next few months, the interdisciplinary team at UCL MAL will work closely with Guarani and Kaiowá community members to incorporate community feedback and include additional content into the VR space, experimenting with AI and interactive coding, in order to finalise a VR experience which will be made available to the public both through an online website and on VR streaming platforms. We aim to present a summary of project findings through the publication of a photo book, a mini-doc/ project video, and an online panel event with the participation of distinguished academic speakers and members of the community.

Project Videos: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HbDnXX5HPqw
UCL MAL Website: https://www.uclmal.com/virtual-museum
Article about the project: https://anthropolitan.org/2021/05/13/decolonising-the-digital-collaborative-approaches-to-virtual-heritage
British Museum's EMKP Project Page: https://www.emkp.org/oga-pysy-guarani-and-kaiowa-ceremonial-houses-in-mato-grosso-do-sul-brazil/
UCL MAL Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/ucl_mal/
Kuñangue Aty Guasu Website: www.kunangue.com
Kuñangue Aty Guasu Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/kunangueatyguasu/?fbclid=IwAR1UQfoJl5EEjBusnVXCS29n5swb8aMF_MjSkrj7XPV3_dHzDIO0k2-wUd0

Award : £3750
Photo: Shamans Dona Ivone and Dona Neuza watch VR Museum © Raffaella Fryer-Moreira