Academic Culture of Remembrance, Ghent

A Conference on the triangular relationship between scientific research, academic heritage and university cultures of remembrance. The aim of this two-day conference is to discuss the triangular relationship between scientific research, the opening up of academic heritage and the creation of a culture of remembrance. Two series of questions are at the centre of this symposium. (1) Firstly, we would like to examine, from a historiographical perspective, the relationship between university history, the culture of remembrance in general and university jubilees in particular. (2) Secondly, the place of academic heritage in the creation and communication of (historical) knowledge of universities and scientific practices will be considered. Through a combination of both central themes, the conference aspires to offer some innovative perspectives for writing contemporary university history.

Research questions

A variety of questions can be elaborated through cases and ongoing research. What are specific challenges when writing a university history on the occasion of a jubilee and in which way these challenges can be taken up? How universities are dealing with their own past and which commemorative practices they are using in this process? In this respect we also want to pay attention to jubilees that were organised by universities for certain professors or to commemorate important historical events. We would like to invite explicitly those participants who present (part of) a project that is started on the occasion of an upcoming jubilee, to discuss the challenge to commemorate the glorious past of their own institution. Could a transnational perspective or a focus on the international circulation of knowledge encourage a more reflective approach? In addition to rather historiographical and methodological-theoretical contributions, we also would like to receive proposals that reflect on the place of academic heritage in this regard. All movable and immovable patrimony under the administration of the university, valuable from a scientific and/or historical perspective, is part of this heritage. In which way academic heritage was and is used for the public representation of the university as an historical entity? How universities were and are dealing with their historical collections and how can these be employed for historical research? The contact with academic heritage leads to questions about the relation between university history and the history of science, the history of institutions and the history of discipline formation.

Plenary keynote speakers

  • Prof. Dr. Sylvia Paletschek (Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg) will present the status quaestionis with regard to university history in Germany. Among other topics, she will discuss the issue how the demands of a modern historiography can be reconciled with the expectations of university authorities when celebrating their institution on the occasion of a jubilee.
  • Dr. Emmanuelle Picard (Institut National de Recherche Pédagogique, Paris) will give a similar lecture, applied to the situation in France, where on the one hand the tradition of jubilees does not exist as a result of the reforms of Napoleon, but on the other hand this does not prevent current universities to reconstruct their history, going back to the middle ages.
  • Prof. Dr. Laurence Brockliss (Oxford University) will give a keynote lecture on the ways of avoiding triumphalist history, applied to the history of Magdalen to commemorate its 550th anniversary and history of Oxford University in general.
  • Prof. Dr. Thomas Bremer (Martin-Luther-Universität Halle), president of “Universeum. European Academic Heritage Network”, will discuss from a historical perspective the topic of displaying research objects of the humanities in university collections.

Ghent University 1817-2017

This conference is the first of many activities anticipating the bicentenary of Ghent University in 2017. It is organized within the scope of UGentMemorie, the historical platform of Ghent University founded in 2010 by the Institute of Public History. UGentMemorie collects history, memories and heritage of Ghent University and stimulates research on academic life in al its diversities. Future activities concerning Ghent University 1817-2017 will be listed at (for the time being mainly in Dutch).

Fact sheet:

  • Academic Culture of Remembrance. A Conference on the triangular relationship between scientific research, academic heritage and university cultures of remembrance.
  • Ghent, March 16 and 17, 2011
  • Conference Web site