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Seminar BA3: Preservation as a Creative Practice in the Long Nineteenth Century


Admission requirements

The following courses need to be passed:

  • All first year courses of the BA Art History/BA Arts, Media and Society

  • Two BA2 seminars.


Participants in this course will learn about the emergence of preservationist thinking in Europe over the course of the long nineteen century. From the heated debates in Revolutionary France to the legal frameworks developed in turn-of-the-century Vienna, we will consider ways in which the heritage discourse destabilized artistic practices. How did fundamental questions of a work’s survival, durability, safety, replicability, and transportability expand the scope of creativity for architects and artists? To what extent did new theories of preservation inspire designers to reexamine their understanding of setting, materiality and audience? As we make sense of such questions, we will also devote special attention to the ways in which preservationist themes engage different publics. Rooted as they are in memory and loss, both personal and collective, debates surrounding the preservation of individual monuments create spaces where disciplinary concerns confront the emotional investments of broader constituencies.

Each meeting of the seminar is organized around a curated pairing: we will examine a key written example of preservationist thinking in connection to the work of a contemporary “creative practitioner.” How, for example, did the design sensibilites of Eleanor Butler and Sarah Ponsonby, the so-called “Ladies of Llangollen,” shape Hermann von Pückler-Muskau’s understanding of landscape heritage? What do John Ruskin’s theories of preservation owe to the work of Louis-Jacques-Mandé Daguerre? And how did Victor de Stuers public calls for preservation impact Pierre Cuypers design of the Rijksmuseum?

Ultimately, participants in this seminar will consider the continued resonace of nineteenth-century preservationist dialogues within the current heritage discourse, especially with respect to the efforts of UNESCO. For the final written assignment, students will critically evaluate the various historical justifactions for preservation and re-deploy these arguments in a “nomination file,” a proposal to inscribe a particular monument in UNESCO’s “World Heritage List.”

Course objectives

Students learn different theories pertaining to the preservation of cultural heritage (in particular those that were developed over the couse of the long nineteenth century).

  • Students learn to interpret theories of preservation within their specific cultural contexts.

  • Students learn to identify connections between theories of preservation and contemporaneous artistic production.

  • Students learn how to critically engage primary sources.

  • Students learn how the current heritage policies and procedures of UNESCO were shaped by the preservation theories of the nineteenth century.

  • Students learn about the politics and procedures for inscribing a property in UNESCO’s “World Heritage List.”

  • Students learn to critically evaluate concepts of “outstanding universal values” in relation to a specific monument by preparing their own “World Heritage List” nomination file.


The timetables are available through My Timetable.

Mode of instruction

  • Seminar.

Assessment method


  • Reading Responses (consisting of one selected image + one succinct question or reflection, maximum 100 words, prompted by the assigned reading). These must be uploaded before the start of each seminar meeting.

  • Oral Presentation (10 minute). Students will present a preliminary version of their final written assignment, including visual material (images, maps, and other media).

  • Final Written Assignment (3000 words, excluding references). In lieu of the customary final paper, students will prepare a “Nomination File,” proposing a specific monument or territory for inscription in UNESCO’s World Heritage List. Students will learn about the existing procedures for nomination and format their final written assignment according to the guidelines specified in UNESCO’s “Annex 5: Format for the nomination of properties for inscription on the World Heritage List.” Within this template, many of the same expectations one would have for a final paper still apply: clear argumentation, supporting visual material carefully sourced and analyzed, and references to appropriate academic literature and other sources. In particular, students are expected to reference the various arguments in favor of preservation which have been discussed throughout the seminar. These arguments should be critically considered and redployed in an attempt to assert the selected property’s “outstanding universal values.”


The final grade is determined by the weighted average of the Reading Responses (15%) Oral Presentation (15%) and the Final Written Assignment (70%). A student passes the class if the weighted average is a passing grade and the Final Written Assignment is a 6.0 or higher.


The re-sit implies rewriting the Final Written Assignment. As far as applicable all resit/ rewrite examinations take place at the same time, after the final (constituent) examination.

Inspection and feedback

How and when an exam review will take place will be disclosed together with the publication of the exam results at the latest. If a student requests a review within 30 days after publication of the exam results, an exam review will have to be organized.

Reading list

All course readings will be made available as .pdfs or as links to open access online platforms on Brightspace. Each week students are expected to complete a required reading before the start of class, typically a primary source by a “preservation theorist.” The full course sylabus (also available on Brightspace) includes a list of “Further Reading” for each seminar meeting. These texts are not required reading, but they may be helpful resources for the final written assignment.


Enrolment through MyStudyMap is mandatory.
General information about course and exam enrolment is available on the website

Registration À la carte education, Contract teaching and Exchange

Information for those interested in taking this course in context of À la carte education (without taking examinations), eg. about costs, registration and conditions.

Information for those interested in taking this course in context of Contract teaching (with taking examinations), eg. about costs, registration and conditions.
For the registration of exchange students contact Humanities International Office.


Dr. S.M. Lauritano