Re-Imagining Challenging History conference CFP

Re-imagining Challenging History


We invite contributions to the second Challenging History conference, to be hosted by Cardiff University and Amgueddfa Cymru – National Museum Wales,  29-30 June  2016.

Proposals are welcome from practitioners and/or researchers interested in re-imagining work with difficult and sensitive heritages in a time of unprecedented change, pressure and evolution for museums.  The conference will directly address these contexts, and suggest imaginative responses to them, helping delegates to explore why and how challenging histories maintain their relevance.

The conference is sponsored by the Arts and Humanities Research Council World War One Engagement Centre: Voices of War and Peace Debates about Challenging History are currently being framed against the backdrop of this very high profile and ongoing commemoration. A strand of the conference will therefore be dedicated to papers that focus on the lessons that can be learned from dealing with this topic, including on the ways in which it informs, challenges or intersects with other histories.

Although Challenging History is focused around the interpretation of heritage, we acknowledge that practitioners from other fields may offer insight and experience into audience engagement and interpretation which could inform heritage practice. We invite those practitioners to consider submitting a proposal.

You are invited to submit a proposal on the broad conference theme or under one of the sub-themes below:

*Re-imagining … commemoration: WW1 and beyond
*Re-imagining … space for challenging history
*Re-imagining … participation | experience | engagement
*Re-imagining … authenticity
*Re-imagining … digital
*Re-imagining … the political dimensions of museums’ work
*Re-imagining … relationships | audiences | visitors
*Re-imagining … empathy
*Re-imagining … silence
*Re-imagining … value
*Re-imagining … social justice

Questions to consider might include…

* Is it appropriate to re-imagine the role of museums and museum professionals as activists or as civil society mediators?
* How does our understanding of ‘impact’ in museums (and Universities also) frame what kind of work with challenging history is deemed viable?
* Do museums’ current methodologies need re-imagining?
* How are online-only museums free to imagine their work with challenging histories differently?
* Is there a role for gaming, play and mischief-making in work with difficult and sensitive subject matters?
* What is the role of academic research in re-imagining well-known challenging topics?
* How does all of this link into wider discussions about museums’ survival in 2016 and beyond?

The conference programme will continue to foster collaboration and shared understanding between academia and the heritage sector, and offer opportunities for networking, demonstrating approaches and practice, as well as for presenting empirical research. We anticipate a vibrant and vital range of discussions and keynotes, and a number of performances and interventions that explore the conference themes.

We welcome abstracts of 300 words along the following lines:
–       20 minute paper presentation
–       90 minute workshop
–       90 minute panel presentation with discussion

Abstracts should be sent to by 1st February 2016. Notifications of acceptance will be sent out in February. Please contact Jenny Kidd if you would like to discuss in advance of your submission.

We plan to offer a limited number of bursaries to cover the delegate fee and to support travel, and are endeavouring to keep the conference fee as low as possible to ensure a diverse range of speakers and participants.

More on Challenging History…

Since 2009, the Challenging History group has been working with heritage professionals, practitioners and academics to explore and interrogate issues raised in work with difficult, contested and sensitive heritages in a range of museum contexts, within and beyond the UK. The project acknowledges that all history is – to a greater or lesser degree – challenging, and encourages practitioners to consider how heritage interpretation can better acknowledge this complexity at its core. In 2014 we edited Challenging History in the Museum: International Perspectives, a book that originated in papers at the last conference, held at City University, London and the Tower of London in 2012.

Challenging History is at once a community of like-minded individuals, a forum for discussion, a programme of ongoing professional development for practitioners and teachers and an advocate for change in the way our audiences engage with our shared history. It originated with the Challenging History series of seminars in 2009, held at Historic Royal Palaces – Tower of London. The programme was conceived to explore the role, aims and outcomes of heritage and museum learning programmes in relation to difficult and controversial subjects.

A challenging history is any history that is contested, or difficult and upsetting to know about.
Challenging History believes the museum and heritage sector has an important role to play covering these histories in their spaces and programmes, and must do this work to stay relevant. It also believes at a personal and societal level it is important to acknowledge and learn about these histories that contribute to our understanding of the world and how we want to live in it.

We see this conference as an opportunity to set an agenda for the work of the network in the coming years and we invite you to join the discussion.


For more on the network, and for further updates on the conference, please see



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