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Re-Imaging challenging history conference

Since 2009, the Challenging History network has been working with heritage professionals, practitioners and academics to explore and interrogate issues raised in work with difficult, contested and sensitive heritages in a range of museum contexts, within and beyond the UK. Kidd is one of the founding members of that network.

The network acknowledges that all history is – to a greater or lesser degree – challenging, and encourages practitioners to consider how heritage interpretation can better acknowledge this complexity at its core. In 2014, we edited Challenging History in the Museum: International Perspectives, a book that originated in papers at the last conference, held at City University, London and the Tower of London in 2012.

The network originated with the Challenging History series of seminars in 2009, held at the Tower of London. The programme was conceived to explore the role, aims and outcomes of heritage and museum learning programmes in relation to difficult and controversial subjects. A challenging history is understood as any history that is contested, or difficult and upsetting to know about.

The Re-Imagining Challenging History conference took place in Cardiff on 29 and 30 June 2016. The conference, jointly hosted by Amgueddfa Cymru-National Museum Wales and Cardiff University, explored how cultural practitioners are working in innovative and responsive ways with difficult and sensitive heritages/themes. This is a time of unprecedented change, pressure and evolution for museums and their continued investment of resources in this area is not assured.

The conference directly addressed those contexts, and suggested imaginative responses to them, helping delegates to explore why and how challenging histories maintain their relevance. The conference programme included keynotes from: Samantha Heywood, Director, Museum of World War II, Boston on ‘The challenges of challenging history in the ‘real’ world’ Stephen Bourne, Scholar and Writer, on ‘Black Poppies’ David Gunn, Artist/Producer, on ‘Museums of Lies and Secrets’

It also included a performance from electro-folk storytellers ‘Harp and A Monkey’, a performance of ‘Graveyard Voices’, a number of off-site sessions and tours, two drinks receptions, and a three-course meal at Cardiff Prison. There were a range of high quality papers, panels and workshops, and opportunities to network and exchange in a ‘campfire session’ and a ‘failure cafe’.

Funder

Economic & Social Research Council (Impact Acceleration Account)


The project team

Principal investigator