6th Dec 2017 5:30pm-7:00pm

Edward Street 102

Dr Sarah May (University College London)

What do nuclear waste disposal, built heritage conservation, endangered language preservation, museum collecting and the curation of family heirlooms have in common? How is the desire to send messages into outer space linked to the desire to create an archive of the world’s seeds? While they might seem worlds away from one other, each of these ‘fields’, or domains creates a material or virtual legacy for the future. In doing so, each actively shapes the future itself.

Heritage Futures is a 4-year research programme (2015-2019) funded by the AHRC and supported additionally by its host universities and 21 partner organisations. The project is carrying out ambitious interdisciplinary research to explore the potential for innovation and creative exchange across a broad range of heritage and related fields, in partnership with a number of academic and non-academic institutions and interest groups.

In this talk I’ll discuss my work on how children are operationalised within the future making of heritage and nuclear waste, with particular reference to the entwined tropes of “for future generations” and “heritage as a gift from the past to the future”. With a nod to Christmas approaching, I’ll explore the power of gift giving in intergenerational power dynamics and consider what happens to unwanted gifts. I’ll also sketch some other ways that children may interact with the futures that are made through heritage and nuclear waste.

Sarah May is a Research Associate on the Heritage Futures project, based at University College London. Her fieldwork in the Lake District compares practice between World Heritage Site management, Nuclear Waste Management and Public Astronomy, and sets these in the context of individual practices such as farming and entrepreneurialism.

Image: The Cult of the Infant (photo by Sarah May)