Cultural Heritage in Conflict and Post-Conflict Societies: New Frameworks for Narrating and Displaying

Researcher: Polina Verbytska
Funded by: VolkswagenStiftung
Duration: August 2022 - July 2023


Cultural heritage is often used to create and support narratives that serve as the base for the construction of identities. Amongst them, almost every ethnic group and nation has its history of past victories or defeats that serve as markers of identity, remembered and celebrated in order to strengthen the ties that hold the group together. Such narratives, sometimes referred to as master narratives, are intrinsically connected to the general political context. In societies in transition, memory has become an intense battlefield. These processes can be observed in Ukraine. The interpretation of the history of World War II and the assessment of its significance for the country are directly related to the postcolonial search for national identity and a geopolitical choice between Russia and the West. The war of Putin‘s regime against Ukraine does also affect the perspective at and the dealing with these narratives. There is an urgent need for more efficient tools to manage and prevent further conflict, work across communities and engage in dialogue.

The aim of the project is to examine museum exhibitions, memorials, and monuments that commemorate the experience of war and forced migration in Europe in connection to identity issues, contested heritage and collective processes of remembering in order to contribute to the scientific discourse and further cultural initiatives in Ukraine. It is foreseen to indicate cultural heritage assets to promote civic identity, reconciliation, and social stability in Ukraine in a post-war situation.

Therefore, the thematical focus is on:
(a) Wars and conflicts.  Cultural heritage supporting master narratives of collective national identities are often threatened by conflict, political changes.

(b) Migrations and displacement. Migrations are often consequences of these conflicts. Migration as a topic has been discovered and represented by several European museums, whereas museums and cultural spaces in Ukraine are dealing with it only marginally. The topic of migration provokes the question of how to tell stories in a museal and public cultural space, how to engage the audience and how to convey information or knowledge.