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Rethinking Radboud's Heritage

Throughout the Western World, historic objects, structures, buildings and places have recently become challenged in light of contemporary values and shifting perspectives of justice, colonialism, and inclusiveness. Not only museums find themselves at the heart of sometimes heated debates on the origins of their collections, but universities, too. In  November 2021, two British universities cropped up in the newspaper headlines after having decided – on the basis of extensive research – to return looted ancient artefacts to Nigeria.

Radboud University, established in 1923 to contribute to the intellectual development of the entire Dutch Catholic community, holds vast and rich collections of cultural heritage which have been shaped over the course of almost one century. Hot spots of heritage formation include the University Library, the University Archives, and the Catholic Documentation Centre. The university had its own Ethnological Museum from 1979 until 2005.

The think tank has been commissioned by Radboud Erfgoed (Radboud Heritage). This programme of Radboud University seeks to optimise the preservation of academic heritage, as well as its usage in research, education, and public outreach. The starting point for this think tank will be a totem pole – with Indonesian roots, presumably – which Radboud Erfgoed acquired from the Nijmegen Faculty of Social Sciences in 2020.

This think tank is tasked with identifying forms and objects of heritage (such as the totem pole) present in the collections of Radboud University which should be labelled as problematic [I], exploring their complex and multi-faceted histories [II], and providing advice on how they should be approached in terms of dealing with their (potentially) contested character [III]. The latter may span through from contemplating added layers to proposing counter-artworks, to name just a few examples.

The kick-off meeting will take place on Friday 4 and Saturday 5 February 2022 in the Dominican Monastery in Huissen. During the weekend, we will get acquainted with Radboud Erfgoed, and you will get to know each other. This is a mandatory part of the think tank.

Weekly meetings
After the kick-off, weekly meetings will take place on Thursdays from 18.30-20.30. The supervisors are present every other week.

Study trip
A study trip lasting up to three or four days is also part of this think tank. The dates will be determined in consultation with the group.

Dr. Chris Dols, historian and heritage curator at Radboud University
Casper Kirkels, programme coordinator RHA