Research ROUTES

Storytelling: Narratives in Memorialization

iC-ACCESS assesses the dynamics of competing postwar memories of Nazi, Communist and fascist terror at work in the European space and aims to offer tools which can potentially offer a coherent way of their storytelling that integrates different histories and divergent memories. Such inter- and (re)presentations of the conflicted heritage of Europe’s violent pasts are articulated at each of our sites through material-discursive traces of the past, as articulated through national experiences and tropes of resistance, collaboration, occupation, and victimhood and perpetration. We ponder how these affect and undermine the manner in which heritage is perceived and used in former conflict areas. We do so through the analyses of existing narratives relating to campscapes (represented in testimonies, literature, public media, museums, memorials and education), by examining mainstream historical discourses in museum display (and how they might overshadow complementary, or conflicted, histories) and disentangling processes of signification and appropriation of transnational perspectives and geopolitical tensions present in biographies of campscapes.

Lived history: Campscapes through testimonies

The project considers individual testimonies as integral to visitor experiences and a rich research material on campscapes. It thus aims to collect, analyze and rethink interview collections so that they open up paradigmatic presentations of histories or supplement sparse contextual information relating to these sites. We study the (past, present and future) role of audio and video testimonies in safeguarding, understanding and valorising campscapes and analyze the use of individual memories in representations of camps in past and present exhibitions, web sites, educational material, and commemorations. Whether these individual stories can account for a previously uncharted micro-history or become an additional source regarding representations of victimhood, of agency or responsibility, they provide a new reason for reflection and experimentation. These types of sources often support a differentiated understanding of painful experiences of conflicts of the 20th century and are presumably more flexible in conveying the mutually shared effects of these pasts. By counterposing archival collections of personal testimonies to historical simplifications of conflicted pasts, iC-ACCESS aims to convey the multiple perspectives on individual experiences circumscribed to campscapes.

Materiality: Campscapes as traces

iC-ACCESS evaluates the role that material culture plays in enhancing, limiting or suppressing knowledge concerning Nazi and Soviet dissonant campscapes. We adopt a broad definition of material evidence including an array of material objects (e.g. personal belongings, weapons, tools, domestic items, clothing), structural remnants (e.g. buildings, barracks, fences and guard towers, extermination infrastructures), human remains and forensic trace evidence (e.g. DNA of victims in mass graves) to understand the role of material evidence in the development of camp memorials and heritage sites. We are equally concerned with material remains in archives and memorial museums, as with findings of previous archaeological investigation, but we also examine the ways in which material traces and forensic evidence have been used by revisionist groups, educators, the media and the public (in particular online) to engineer alternative interpretations of Nazi and Soviet atrocities. Working closely with the associated partners and other stakeholders, activities include site visits with a specific focus on critically evaluating the presence/ absence of material culture within key sites, observational experiments focusing on visitor interactions with material culture (to include interviews and participatory observations), “public archaeology” activities in the form of workshops which encourage engagement with material culture. As such, iC-ACCESS demonstrate the role that materiality (which often resides unnoticed in archives or in the landscape) can play in enhancing site experience and evaluation.

Forensics: Campscapes and archaeology

iC-ACCESS explores novel ways in which new technologies and methods can help identify, and provide access to buried physical traces and forensic evidence of and within campscapes. The methodology will draw upon state-of-the-art techniques derived from archaeology, forensic investigation, geography and digital humanities in order to locate, record and digitally preserve landscapes of mass violence, including traces such as objects, structural remnants, graves and infrastructure. Recent advances in non- and minimally invasive archaeological methods, when coupled with surveying technologies from other disciplines, offer the potential to account for sensitivities surrounding conflict sites; they also facilitate a much more detailed analysis of both the areas within the boundaries of camps and surrounding landscape. We use novel applications of satellite remote sensing, airborne and terrestrial laser scanning (LiDAR), drones (UAVs), terrestrial topographic and geophysical survey, and micro- and macro-methods of archaeological excavation to record and digitally preserve each of our case study campscapes. Crucial to the dissemination objectives of this project, we provide highly detailed, three-dimensional landscape models that also incorporate aerial imagery, photographs and maps, as state-of-the-art educational tools.

Digitality: Retrieving campscapes

iC-ACCESS uses and examines the potential of digital tools to offer new possibilities to connect local, national and global audiences to access conflicted heritage, as today it is widely acknowledged that digital tools allow “access to heritage without factual, time or location constraints”. Virtual and augmented reality can be particularly useful at sites where no/few visible remains survive above the ground, as they can substitute traditional visitor experiences and provide an understanding of the campscape as “place”. The project team will create a digital network of 4D reconstructed sites through the assimilation of the 3D visualisations and the subsequent layering of documentary evidence (e.g. material traces, oral testimonies, photographs, media, narratives and memories) connected to landscapes, monuments, memorials and museums. Virtual Reality (VR), Augmented Reality (AR) and other forms of digital media will also be used to map and connect campscapes providing interactive, spatial tools that can be used online, within museums, within campscapes and in the classroom. The potential of digital tools in the mapping and visualization of conflict and afterlives of such spaces has arguably not yet been fully realized and the project aims to provide new ways of representing and conveying their multiple meanings and histories.