The Future of the Past: Heritage and Climate



Auditorium, Tongersestraat 53

Prof. Thijs Weststeijn
Professor of Art History, Utrecht University

While the wooden poles under Amsterdam begin to rot, water levels in Venice are rising, archaeological sites in Pakistan are flooding and the temples of Babylon are collapsing due to salinisation. The climate crisis is endangering historical heritage all over the world, through higher temperatures and humidity, more storms and fires, and of course the rising seas. Monuments, buildings, inner cities and cultural landscapes are under threat. Museums like the Louvre have already started moving parts of their collections into climate-proof storage.

              This lecture gives an overview of the subject and makes suggestions for solutions. There is a special focus on the Netherlands, where heritage has been closely bound to the natural environment since the seventeenth century – the Little Ice Age. Moreover, there is a lot at stake due to the rising sea level. Climate change means that we have to deal with history in new ways. Nowadays, historical heritage confronts us not only with the past, but also with the future.


Thijs Weststeijn is a Professor of Art History at Utrecht University. His publications include Art and Antiquity in the Netherlands and Britain (2015) and The Visible World (2008). He regularly writes for a wider public, for which he was awarded the ABG/Vrij Nederland Essay Prize. He has previously published essays on heritage and climate change in De Groene Amsterdammer and Aeon (also as a podcast).



16 March 2023

20:00 - 21:30