Landscape and heritage

This research theme aims to investigate historical and heritage landscapes, in their own right as well as in relation to present-day society and its social, economic and environmental concerns.

In the historical sciences and in heritage studies, landscapes have become a common framework for analysis. From rural districts and urban environments to entire regions, landscapes offer a coherent spatial context to study how societies were organized and how they changed over time. The same spatial frames allow us to investigate the role of heritage in present-day society and also to integrate heritage in urban and regional planning projects.

Within the theme 4 interrelated fields of interest can be distinguished:

  • European historical landscapes
    CLUE+ archaeologists, (art)historians and historical geographers cherish a well established tradition of research into European historical landscapes, displaying a remarkable diversity in approaches and in chronological and spatial focus. They conduct network analyses within ancient Mediterranean landscapes, study changing perceptions of imaginary landscapes or write cultural biographies of Dutch wetland areas.

    No matter how varied, what the elements of this research have in common is a holistic perspective. A landscape approach needs a broad and coherent view on socio-economic, technological and ecological developments, on the history of religions, mentalities and values and on changes in organization, administration and politics.

  • The role of cultural landscapes in the present
    Heritage, landscapes and the mental maps they represent feed historical awareness and the identity of communities. They also form important sources of inspiration for contemplation about future society, the creative industry, tourism, recreation or spatial planning.

    CLUE+ members are in the forefront of international research concerning these issues: they investigate landscapes of the Second World War, study the role of airports in triggering socio-economic development in urban networks, or analyse the economic value of heritage in modern metropolitan cities.

  • Translating theory into the practice of present-day society
    CLUE+ members analyse management and governance structures and at the same time participate in advisory boards and planning committees, in particular with regard to the redevelopment of monuments and cultural landscapes and, more in general, in relation to urban regeneration and regional transformation projects. Input in this field is commonly tightly linked to the in-depth historical studies of long-term developments of the kind central to the first field of interest.

  • Methodological and technological innovations
    New field methods and e-science techniques like remote sensing, 3D modeling and geodesign tools are refined and tested at various levels of analysis. They are employed for instance in order to discover hidden ruins or to model monuments and built-up environments for the purpose of integrating them into spatial planning and design projects. In doing so, this field of interest is strongly interwoven with the thematic approaches of the other fields.

The theme explicitly aims to further interdisciplinarity. The central issues demand close collaboration between archaeologists, geoarchaeologists, historians, art historians and historical geographers, but also with heritage and IT-specialists, spatial economists, social scientists and spatial planners and designers. There is thorough historical reflection with an open eye to the cultural, social, economic and planning concerns of our time.

Research Coordinator

Prof. Dr. Gert-Jan Burgers; director of CLUE+

On the 1st of September 2015, Gert-Jan Burgers (Professor in History and Heritage of the Cultural Landscape and the Urban Environment) has been appointed Director of CLUE+ at the Faculty of Humanities of VU Amsterdam, after having served at the Royal Netherlands Institute in Rome, first as Head of the Ancient Studies section (from 2006) and Director (from 2012).

The greater part of his academic career to date has been concerned with proto-historic and Roman Italy, landscape archaeology and heritage studies. Since 2004 he has focused also on the development and implementation of critical heritage research, in the south-Italian region of Apulia and in Rome, where he co-directs the project Challenging Testaccio. Urban History of a Roman Rione.