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Critical Heritage Studies – fascinating initiative of the Jagiellonian University academic group

Critical Heritage Studies

CRITICAL, but what is this criticism about? In the Kantian understanding, it does not presuppose negation, but only going beyond the usual pattern of thinking. We now have the question of clarifying what, then, is the  heritage that is subject to the above-mentioned criticism. At the beginning, however,  it is necessary to ask the question about the conditions of the possibility of learning. Given that since the subject conditions knowledge, it is easy to conclude that heritage will be something else for the ethnographer, something else for the guide, and something else for the  museum director. According to the Faro Conference of 2005, heritage is defined as ‘a collection of resources inherited from the past, which, regardless of ownership, is perceived by people as a reflection and expression of their ever-evolving values, beliefs, knowledge and traditions’ [1]. This definition gives us a lot of freedom in the interpretation of the concept – specifying what heritage is, whose heritage is, and why it is appears as a fundamental problem of updating the message of the UNESCO Convention on the World Cultural and Natural Heritage (more than 50 years have already passed since its signing).

Critical Heritage Studies Hub

A new project called Critical Heritage Studies Hub appeared  at one of the renowned Polish universities. It is an initiative implemented within the “Strategic Program of Excellence Initiative” representatives of different disciplines involved in heritage research at the Jagiellonian University. The mission of CHSH is above all “to develop critical studies on heritage in close relationship with the socio-economic environment by being a platform for creative cooperation between academia and educational institutions, cultural institutions, NGOs, local government units and business” [1]. The project also aims to strengthen and create social engagement of the University, supporting the development of “applied” science, which is supposed to meet the needs of the present. The project manager is dr hab. Maciej Mikuła, a graduate of the Faculty of Law and History at the Jagiellonian University, has presented his research at many academic conferences in Poland and abroad. The team consists of highly qualified individuals whose areas of research include anthropology, tourism, social history and the history of political and legal doctrines.

Research on heritage is conducted at the University within a variety of disciplines. The meeting of people representing both humanities and social sciences released new energy and resulted in interdisciplinary cooperation.

Maciej Mikuła, PhD

According to the members of CHSH, academic interest in heritage in Poland is relatively small compared to Western European countries. There is also a kind of split between theorists of heritology and experts who “make” heritage. The aim of the project is to develop a cooperation mechanism of the nature research and development in the field of heritage work, as well as critical research of this phenomenon.

CHSH Research Groups

Critical Heritage Studies Hub conducts its activities within research groups focusing on issues related to the presence ofheritage in the present and its role in the future. We can distinguish four such groups: “Mobileheritage”, “Heritage of Polish-LithuanianCommonwealth”, “Heritage of War 1914-18” and “Heritage in Web”. For example, the latter focuses its activities oninventorying, archiving and protecting, organizing and disseminating the heritage of past centuries in the digital society, using modern technologies. The most important task carried out by “Heritage in Web” was to develop a thesaurus, which organizes the metadata of legal heritage objects published on the web. It consists of a number of dictionaries devoted to particular branches of law at different periods of its development.

It is not without significance that the Jagiellonian University belongs to the Una Europa alliance. Heritage is one of Una Europa’s main areas of activity, and our Hub naturally collaborates with this alliance. In the critical studies of heritage, we particularly emphasize its presence and especially its function in the present and the future. Therefore, accessibility, responsible tourism, online heritage, legacy in conflict and legacy of conflict are just some of the issues that are the subject of our research, education and outreach activities.

– Maciej Mikuła, PhD

The development of Critical Heritage Studies in Poland is only gaining momentum, as exemplified by the CHSH project at the Jagiellonian University. The activities of the initiative can be followed on an ongoing basis by subscribing to their newsletter and via social media.

Polish market

The Critical Heritage Studies Hub project in Poland is not only an academic endeavor but also holds potential significance for the local cultural and tourist market. Through research and analysis of the country’s cultural heritage, this initiative can have a significant impact on understanding, preserving, and promoting local historical resources.

Article authorized by dr Maciej Mikuła.


1. Critical Heritage Studies Hub ”Flag Project Description” 


2. Critical Heritage Studies Hub – ”Research groups”


Olga Brzezińska
Studentka prawa na Wydziale Prawa i Administracji Uniwersytetu Warszawskiego. Doświadczenie redakcyjne oraz literackie zdobywałam poprzez udział w licznych konkursach literackich oraz polonistycznych, których bywałam również laureatką
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Olga Brzezińska

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