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The Past’s Future – University of Copenhagen

The Past’s Future

PURPOSE: Digitization creates new possibilities for making culture accessible, for creating public access to historical knowledge, and for presenting culture as the collective memory of society. However, it also raises complex questions in relation to methods of interpreting and using knowledge. 

Collaborating with three Danish national cultural heritage institutions – the National Gallery, the National Museum and the Royal Library – and with Professor Jeffrey Schnapp, Director of metaLab at Harvard University, participants in the project wish to analyze the concept and framework of education in light of the digital transformations – and how these transformations affect the future of the past as collected, preserved and disseminated by cultural heritage institutions.

METHOD: the project combines disciplines and approaches: (a) history of ideas & cultural history: working with sources, both empirical and theoretical, and understanding ideas and cultural concepts as something that are themselves historically conditioned rather than eternally fixed (b) literature and media studies: working conceptually with the notions and genealogies of curation, Bildung and individuation; and drawing on theoretical frameworks such as post-structuralism, curatorial studies, information technology studies and infrastructure studies; (c) computer science: applying traditional computer science methodology for IT-system development; and d) design and copyright: looking at the implications of copyright for design and museum studies in the digital age.

PARTICIPANTS: the Project Leader is Professor (MSO) Helle Porsdam, SAXO Institute. The other participants are Professor Jeffrey Schnapp, Graduate School of Design and metaLAB, Harvard University; PhD fellow Jeppe Eimose Waagstein, Department of Computer Science, University of Copenhagen; Postdoc fellow Nanna Bonde Thylstrup, SAXO Institute and Department of Arts and Cultural Studies, University of Copenhagen; and Ass. Professor Stina Teilmann-Lock, Department of Design and Communication, University of Southern Denmark.

FUNDING: the project is funded by the Velux Foundation.

CONTACT: Professor (mso) Helle Porsdam,, tel. +45 51299495.

FURTHER READING: for more information on the project, check out the project’s website.