Transmitting Contentious Cultural Heritages with the Arts

From Intervention to Co-production

TRACES is a three-year project funded in 2016 by the European Commission as part of the Horizon 2020 Research and Innovation Programme. Through an innovative research methodology, TRACES investigates the challenges and opportunities raised when transmitting complex pasts and the role of difficult heritage in contemporary Europe.

European cultural heritage is inherently complex and layered. In the past, conflicting or controversial perspectives on different historical memories and experiences have been colliding in the rich cultural landscape of Europe and continue to do so in the present. These contentious heritages are often particularly difficult to convey to a wide public and can impede inclusivity as well as prevent the development of convivial relations. Nevertheless, if transmitted sensitively, they can contribute to a process of reflexive Europeanisation, in which the European imagination is shaped by self-awareness, on-going critical reflection, and dialogue across different positions.

TRACES involves a multi-disciplinary team that brings together established and emerging scholars, artists, and cultural workers to develop a rigorous, creative and all-round investigation on contentious cultural heritages, and to experiment with innovative research methodologies. In order to achieve these objectives, TRACES has initiated a series of “Creative Co-Productions” in which artists, researchers, heritage agencies, and stakeholders collaborate on long-term projects researching selected cases of contentious heritage and developing new participatory public interfaces. Theoretical investigations pertaining to different research fields and disciplines will support and complement these art-based research actions, analysing and expanding their outcomes with the aim to identify new directions for cultural institutions and museums to effectively transmit contentious cultural heritage and contribute to evolving European identities.

Research Fields

TRACES art-based research actions are supported and complemented by theoretical and empirical investigations pertaining to six main research fields.


Artistic Research: Creative Co-Production Beyond Intervention analyses and develops participatory methods and models of innovative contemporary creative collaborations between artists, researchers, heritage agencies, and their stakeholders.

This Research Filed is aimed at coordinating the five Creative Co-Productions, analyzing their artistic processes and fostering exchanges between the CCPs and the project theoretical and empirical investigations. Through a cross-disciplinary and participatory approach, it investigates the role of contemporary art in transmitting contentious cultural heritage. Its main aim is to identify sustainable models enabling the collaboration between art researchers, academics and cultural heritage institutions and to promote relevant strategies for citizens’ involvement.

Scientific Coordinator

Politecnico di Milano, Department of Architecture and Urban Studies, Prof. Luca Basso Peressut

Principal Investigators

Suzana Milevska (POLIMI), Tal Adler (UBER)


Ethnographic Research on/with Art Production critically examines the collaborative processes between art and research also in relation to challenges posed by the post-colonial legacy of museums’ collections.

The research activities carried out within this Research Field deploy an empirical approach aimed at critically examining the collaborative processes between art and research, drawing on and complementing the activities of the Creative Co-Productions. For this purpose, several workshops will be organized and selected M.A. students will carry out ethnographic field research on the relationships between researchers, artists and heritage agencies. By developing comparative study this Research Field seeks to generate insights related to improved practices of heritage provision and new forms of heritage transmission.

Scientific Coordinator and Principal Investigator

Universitetet I Oslo, Department of Social Anthropology, Prof. Arnd Schneider


Research on Education and Stakeholder Involvement investigates learning and exhibiting contentious cultural heritage in Europe, in order to identify ways in which educational settings can provide spaces of conflict and negotiation.

Responding to the need for in-depth research contributing to practice development, as well as a comprehensive European perspective in this field, this Research Field investigates the educational aspect of transmitting contentious cultural heritage in Europe. On the one hand it explores and develops new art, educational and design based methods to foster communication with differentiated audience; on the other, it is responsible for the involvement of stakeholders and the implementation of educational activities in relation to the activities of the Creative Co-Productions.

Scientific Coordinator

Zürcher Hochschule der Künste, Institute for Art Education (CH), Nora Landkammer

Principal Investigators

Nora Landkammer and Karin Schneider (ZHDK) with Luca Basso Peressut (POLIMI)


Performing Heritage: Creative Everyday Practices in Popular Culture conducts ethnographic fieldwork into contentious heritages with a focus on intangible heritage. As the theoretical backbone of the project, it evaluates, contextualises and brings together practical and theoretical results from TRACES investigations for public use.

This Research Field introduces and develops the new research perspective of reflexive Europeanisation from the margins in the context of contentious cultural heritage transmission with the arts. It investigates expressive heritage practices – including public performances, customs, rituals and other forms of communication – and conducts ethnographic research in collaboration with artists, community groups, NGOs, living-arts initiatives, social movements and other civil society actors, in order to analyse how performative meaning-making processes from below can contribute to a better understanding of processes of reflexive Europeanisation and the empowerment of local communities through creativity.

Scientific Coordinator

Universitaet Klagenfurt, Institute for Cultural Analysis, Prof. Klaus Schönberger

Principal Investigators

Klaus Schönberger and Marion Hamm (UNI-KLU)


Contentious Collections: Research on Material Culture of Difficult Cultural Heritage undertakes comparative and contextual analysis in order to identify the particular challenges and potential involved in transmitting contentious cultural heritage and to identify new ways of mediating difficult collections.

Comparative and contextual analysis will be undertaken within this Research Field in order to identify the particular challenges and potentials involved in transmitting contentious cultural heritage and identifying new ways of mediating difficult collection. It supports the Creative Co-Productions in developing creative approaches for working with sensitive collection. In order to achieve reflexive Europeanisation with regard to practice and work in local museums and difficult museum objects, this Research Filed extends the inventory beyond the case studies of the Creative Co-Productions and develops generally a European understanding of these collections.

Scientific Coordinator

Humboldt-Universitaet zu Berlin

Principal Investigators

Sharon Macdonald, Tal Adler, Regina Römhild, Anna Szöke


Dissemination and Communication activities aim is to effectively communicate and promote Project outcomes by researching and developing innovative infrastructures for knowledge communication in the field of heritage and museum studies.

In TRACES, activities related to the communication, dissemination and exploitation of the project results are inherently intertwined with research activities, focus and practices. Through the design of a rich set of communication interfaces and tools, this research field is aimed at supporting the dissemination of the project outcomes, so to be appropriately considered for use in decision-making, and inspire further actions and research projects in the field.

Scientific Coordinator

Politecnico di Milano, Department of Architecture and Urban Studies, Dr. Francesca Lanz

Principal Investigators

Michela Bassanelli (POLIMI), Cristina F. Colombo (POLIMI), Jacopo Leveratto (POLIMI), Tal Adler (UBER)

Creative Co-Productions

TRACES is structured around five experimental art-based research actions