Collaborative for Cultural Heritage Management and Policy (CHAMP) @ Illinois

Today’s blog post will introduce you to the Collaborative for Cultural Heritage Management and Policy (CHAMP), an interdisciplinary research center at the University of Illinois focused on studying cultural heritage and museum practices around the world within the context of globalization.

This University Center is headed by Dr. Helaine Silverman – an esteemed professor in the Department of Anthropology with appointments in other University departments, including Art History and Landscape Architecture. CHAMP is comprised of faculty and graduate students at the University of Illinois, visiting scholars, distinguished lecturers, and others who share the center’s major concerns, such as stakeholders’ competing claims to heritage and history, heritage conservation and preservation, and memory work. In keeping with its interdisciplinary nature, individuals involved with the center come from an eclectic array of disciplines, including American Indian Studies, Anthropology, Global Studies, Landscape Architecture, Library and Information Science, and Political Science.

In pursuit of critical dialogue and research, CHAMP sponsors and hosts a number of conferences, film series, guest lectures, and other scholarly events on campus that promote discussions on cultural policies and practices of the past and present. Visit the CHAMP web site for a complete list of Spring 2014 upcoming events, including a much anticipated colloquium entitled The Controversial Dead. This program will be held May 1st , 2014 at Burrill Hall and will focus on how societies across the globe remember and treat their deceased. Featured lectures and discussions will engage questions such as who owns the past and “whose heritage do the dead constitute.” [i]

One of the center’s primary goals is to train students in heritage and museum theory: graduate students in Masters and Doctoral programs at the University of Illinois can become involved with CHAMP by pursuing the Heritage Studies minor and/or Museum Studies minor. The CHAMP website asserts its commitment to training “a new generation of heritage scholars, heritage managers and museum professionals capable of dealing with complex realities and of articulating progressive policies to local and national governments and other agencies,” [ii] including the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). The minors provided through CHAMP may be of special interest to students of archiving, library science, heritage management, or museology.

Machu Picchu on the eastern Andes mountains. A historic site added to UNESCO’s World Heritage List in 1983. Picture by Charles J Sharp via Wikimedia Commons.

Shortly after beginning graduate school, I was inspired to couple my own Masters curriculum in Library and Information Science and African Studies with a Museum Studies minor. I was interested in engaging the politics of representing identities as told by ‘often one-sided’ narratives in museum installations and dioramas — especially those displaying artifacts and objects with contested histories. While pursuing the Museum Studies minor, my research interests were mainly concerned with the importance of South African museums’ connection and contribution to global conversations on identity formation, marginalized narratives, and indigenous or traditional knowledge production. The District Six Museum in Cape Town, South Africa was often a research topic of mine since it stands out as a prime example of symbolic restitution and the transformation of South Africa’s heritage sector after the first democratic elections. Today, this small-scale community museum acts to restore a sense of belonging to more than 150,000 South African citizens who were systematically displaced from various areas in Cape Town during a painful legacy of apartheid.

A map on the ground floor of the District Six Museum in Cape Town; visitors who are former residents of District Six are invited to draw place markers on the map to remember their homes and other important localities. Picture re-posted via Wikimedia Commons and is in the public domain.

The Museum Studies minor, consisting of an additional 16 hours of coursework from an approved list of graduate-level classes and a culminating capstone project, greatly enriched my program in African Studies and Library Science because much of the intangible and tangible heritage in continental Africa, such as artworks, performances and traditions, cannot be easily encapsulated in archives and library collections. I highly recommend this program if you are interested in complimenting your graduate degree with culturally enriching courses, practicums and projects.

Check out CHAMP’s latest projects, publications and updates by visiting the Center’s online newsletter. For online and print research resources on history, heritage, identity, globalization, and other interrelated topics from around the world be sure to visit the International and Area Studies Library or contact one of our area specialists.

[i] CHAMP (Collaborative for Cultural Heritage Management and Policy). “The Controversial Dead: A Colloquium.” (Accessed March 16, 2014).

[ii] CHAMP (Collaborative for Cultural Heritage Management and Policy). “The Significance of CHAMP in the Contemporary Globalizing World.” (Accessed March 16, 2014).

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