LH.20.011 – From Popular Culture to Cultural Heritage: Challenges and Opportunities for Heritage Institutions

Route: Living history

Cluster question: 111 Will digitisation save our cultural heritage?

Popular culture structures our everyday lives and shapes our identities, collective memories and historical consciousness. It is the culture that we engage with most regularly. It can break down national identities, offering a more inclusive idea of togetherness and belonging. It often incorporates marginalized groups left behind by the traditional heritage process. Yet it is also highly commercial, and its easily commoditized nature gives it an uneasy relationship to official cultural heritage. Popular culture is only lightly recognized by heritage institutions as part of ‘our heritage’ that is worth being collected, preserved, documented and studied. However, emerging cultural practices offline (e.g. tourism, historical re-enactments, collecting) and online (e.g. playlist sharing; video-remixing) appropriate popular culture as personal and group heritage. With the increasing personalization of heritage and the aging of traditional and digital native pop-culture consumers, this process will only accelerate. This project will investigate this incorporation by asking questions such as: how and why does popular culture become cultural heritage? Whose voices does it elevate? How can heritage institutions ‘manage’ popular heritage and collaborate with amateur collectors? How can heritage institutions make efficient use of digital technologies in making it accessible for future generations? These questions get to the most pressing issues in cultural heritage research. They allow us to ask what cultural heritage truly is, and for whom. The project aims to bring together major stakeholders in the heritage sector to develop strategies to collect, preserve, document and make accessible emerging forms of popular heritage. At this crucial time, during the ongoing shift from ‘popular culture’ to ‘cultural heritage’, this project will bring these issues to light to better understand how this process takes place, and what the stakes are for everyone involved in the heritage sector.


heritage institutions, personalization of heritage, pop-culture consumers, popular culture, popular heritage

Other organisations

Netherlands Institute for Sound and Vision


Organisation Utrecht University (UU)
Name Prof. dr. E. (Eggo) Mueller
E-mail e.mueller@uu.nl
Website https://www.uu.nl/medewerkers/EMueller