POEM Kick-off and Reflections on our First Knowledge Hub in Hamburg

By: Jennifer Krückeberg, Angeliki Tzouganatou, Quoc-Tan Tran, Samantha Lutz


The Knowledge Hub week started with a series of workshops at the Institute of European Ethnology/Cultural Anthropology at the University of Hamburg in which the fellows discussed, amongst others, the role of research ethics, ethical data management and Open Data. Particularly, the role of Open Science was examined with our partner Wikimedia Deutschland e.V., which led to the conclusion that the concept offers many opportunities to make academic research more accessible and engaging to the wider public, while also acknowledging that, far from its ideal, challenges like funding and the sustainability of supporting infrastructures, need to be addressed too.

The challenges of Open Science will be further explored by POEM in the context of humanities. More specifically, it will explore and reflect on how Open Science can be formulated in terms of specific qualitative research practices, processes, tools and representations as well as differentiate Open Science approaches with those used in the POEM PhD projects. Other issues will also be addressed, such as the sustainability of supporting infrastructures and the context of research with vulnerable and under-represented groups (e.g. young people, refugees, etc.).

Main lessons from the workshop on data literacy & tools, conducted by the School of Data, a project by our partners in Open Knowledge Foundation Deutschland e.V., focused on good practises in using Open Data in an effective way. They introduced the concept of responsible data, discussed the challenges of data protection, and provided hands-on experience on how to analyse quantitative data by means of open software.

Following the workshops, the Opening Conference “Connectivities, Empowerment, and Recognition of Cultural Heritages” was held at the end of the week, at the Museum der Arbeit in Hamburg (Germany). The conference featured contributions from guest speakers, the POEM fellows and keynote speakers, Dr Susanne Wessendorf (London School of Economics) and Prof Dr Gisela Welz (Goethe University Frankfurt/Main). Dr Susanne Wessendorf described how her approach shifted from ethnicity-based research of specific groups to neighbourhood studies, as a result of the multiculturalism backlash and emerging attention to increased population complexity and “superdiversity”.

In the second keynote, Prof Dr Gisela Welz discussed that heritage is not an innate quality of artefacts or relics but is generated through knowledge practices and technologies which identify, designate and evaluate something as heritage. She also emphasised the ability of heritage to create references to multiple pasts. The same heritage site may evoke different meanings for different audiences, therefore, dealing with the legacies of the past requires particular insights into contemporary social actors.

Following three thematic sessions, the question on how those social actors help to establish connectivities and raise the level of empowerment was tackled by the presentations of the 13 POEM fellows and invited speakers. Taking different perspectives on how to approach participatory memory practices the presenters explored the following issues. The first session focused on memory institutions and discussed the changing work environment of future heritage professionals through the new emerging digital memory modalities. The discussion also considered the role of social media in memory institutions’ professional memory work and how GLAMs (Galleries, Libraries, Archives, and Museums) can establish practices for an ongoing engagement and reflection of multiple narratives. This would apply to both on-site and online as well as the integration of dissonant and difficult heritage in order to facilitate social cohesion in Europe.

In the second session, the speakers examined the relationships built by people and groups through their individual practices of commemoration. The questions raised were around which traditions and cultural objects of memory institutions are regarded as meaningful and relevant for example for young people in everyday life. Moreover, it was discussed to what extent are different groups represented in institutional narratives of archives or museums and how to evoke interest in cultural heritage, build communities and capabilities to advance a sense of responsibility as well as citizenship for cultural heritage.

The last session drew on connectivities built by memory modalities, i.e. the particular modes and media qualities of building memories in today’s digital media ecologies. The main issues explored how participation is either encouraged or hindered by the specific nature of digital infrastructures which are designed for or used in the heritage sector (e.g. social media). In addition, the legal and economic challenges of building Internet ecologies of open cultural knowledge that would be open, compatible and sustainable, were examined.

Throughout the conference, different perceptions of what ‘participation’ means were brought into the discussion, as in reality, participatory projects do not always fulfill their goal or promise. In a broader picture, it is essential to see how institutions align their envisioned socially inclusive potential with their current work practice in order to meet the needs of people’s memory practices in everyday life. It crystallised at the end of the conference that the question of what we mean when we speak about ‘participation’ and empowerment needs to be addressed, before social-inclusivity can successfully be incorporated into cultural heritage practice – a very urgent issue which POEM hopes to contribute to.

Do you want to find out more about the POEM fellows or the Knowledge Hub? Have a read of Elina Moraitopolou’s excellent blog about the event and check the POEM fellow’s profiles on our webpage or watch keynote speakers Dr Susanne Wessendorf and Prof Dr Gisela Welz. You can also find all presentations of the conference on our website.


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Coordination and Project Management

University of Hamburg
c/o: Institute for Anthropological Studies in Culture and History
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POEM Uni Hamburg

Concepts, strategies and media infrastructures for envisioning socially inclusive potential futures of European Societies through culture.

This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under the Marie Skłodowska-Curie grant agreement No. 764859.