Area of priority: war memorials

From junk to cultural heritage – professional cultural heritage challenges in the management of war memorials. This is one of NIKU’s four strategic institutional programs (SIS) during the years 2016-2020.

The relation between material culture, people and landscape plays a vital role in modern conflicts. The purpose with this SIS is to illuminate and examine the mutual influence between humans, material culture and landscape in modern armed conflicts of the 20th and 21st century.

Industrialized modern warfare is dominated by material culture, technology and property. It appears qualitatively as different from earlier armed conflicts, both in terms of consequences (the degree of destruction, the involvement of an entire society in a war economy), the relation of the materiality (from number of soldiers to war material, technology and industrial production, the ability to transform landscapes), and in regards to time (response time, time to think, democracy).

Conflict archaeology

Consequentially, the last two decades have seen the growth of an international field, conflict archaeology. The conflict archaeologist focuses on conflicts as many-faceted phenomena, where the physical traces have many and varied meanings or significance, which change with time.

The field is not limited to battlefields or large-scale wars, but encompass all (armed) conflicts and the diversity of social and cultural consequences or outcomes that arise from conflict.

During the occupation of Norway from 1940 to 1945, the Germans invested heavily in defense systems and infrastructure. Coastal forts, railways, roads, bridges, airports, wharves and industries were built or improved, largely aided by forced labor.

Infrastructure still in use

A good deal of the infrastructure established during the war is still in use, in addition to material remnants from the war that are spread throughout the country. For a long while this aspect of cultural heritage was treated as an environmental problem, the material remnants were rubbish that should preferably be removed.

In recent years, however, we have begun to regard the effects of the war as cultural memorials that can provide information both about the Second World War, as well as the post-war period.

NIKU’s strategical institute program in war memorials (War memorial – SIS) extends over a 5-year period.

The research work of the War memorial-SIS is organized in four modules that focus on issues connected to understanding and management of cultural heritage from the Second World War.

  • Landscape understanding
  • Identity building
  • The correlation between people and material culture
  • Production of ideologies and management of cultural heritage

The issues will contribute to more widespread visibility of the source and research potential within recent material culture.

Anders Hesjedal

Contact us

Anders Hesjedal is the coordinator of War memorial- SIS and can answer your questions.