Gepubliceerd op 04-01-2024

Call for Papers: Shaping Transformation. University Collections in a Changing World

From September 24th to 29th, 2024, ICOM-UMAC, the International Council of Museums’ Committee for University Museums and Collections, and the European Academic Heritage Network UNIVERSEUM will hold their first joint annual meeting at TUD Dresden University of Technology in Dresden, Germany. The conference, hosted by TUD’s Office of Academic Heritage, Scientific, and Art Collections, will be held on-site, with selected keynotes streamed online. The conference language is English.

In a world undergoing profound processes of transformation, societal, political, and environmental changes are increasingly impacting all areas of human life.  For university collections and museums, such developments present both challenges and opportunities. The way academic heritage is perceived and the infrastructures dedicated to its management and care are currently in a state of flux, leading sometimes to decline, sometimes to new life. Looking back, similar developments have affected academic heritage at various points in history, and they are likely to do so in the years to come.

These processes of transformation and transition, their impact on university collections and museums, and how we respond to them both individually and as a community, will be the overarching theme of the 2024 Dresden conference.


1. University Collections and Museums Addressing Challenge and Transition

Although academic institutions all over the world follow the same core mission in education and research, change affects them in different ways. The same is true for the collections and museums safeguarding academic heritage. External factors such as economic or societal shifts can directly impact their work and outlook, highlighting a state and position that are often precarious. At the same time, internal processes, such as critical research from within the academic community, are increasingly questioning systems of power and knowledge as well as identity and ownership, pushing for a fundamental reassessment of collecting practices and object use. As a result, academic heritage institutions are increasingly faced with a need to question and redefine their roles, both in an institutional context and in wider society.

  • How can we embrace these challenges as opportunities for transformation and change?
  • How can we harness their potential to actively shape rather than merely passively accept transformation?
  • How do challenges and transitions affect the way we approach and (re-)think academic heritage?

2. Activating University Collections for Research and Teaching in Times of Change

Within the unique environment of academic institutions standing at the forefront of knowledge production and higher education, university museums and collections harbor great potential. As custodians of academic heritage, they carry an obligation to actively contribute to their institution’s mission. To fulfill this role, they need to develop and apply innovative approaches to object-based research and teaching. While working with physical objects remains at the core of this task, the digital transformation has opened new ways for collection-oriented work. From digital research infrastructures to AI and beyond, virtual tools present both major possibilities and challenges for object-based teaching and research as well as collection management and outreach.

  • How can academic objects and collections be “activated” for current and future research and teaching?
  • What skills and strategies are needed for successful object-based teaching and research, especially in times of change?
  • How can university collections and museums best address the challenges and take advantage of the opportunities offered by the digital transformation?

3. Academic Heritage Institutions as Places of Exchange and Discourse

Against the backdrop of increasing fragmentation both on an institutional and disciplinary level, spaces that allow for open dialogue and debate beyond these limits are needed now more than ever. They gain particular significance in times of crisis and transition, as they can offer platforms of dialogue, inviting individuals from diverging backgrounds to tackle issues and share ideas. University collections and museums, in their diversity, constitute ideal environments for such encounters. They harbor great potential for building bridges, both within the academic community and beyond. Also, serving as access hubs for broader audiences, they can help strengthen their institutions’ integration into society at large.

  • In what ways can university museums and collections facilitate and shape exchange processes?
  • How can they serve as hubs of dialogue and debate within the academic sphere?
  • How can they enhance the visibility of academic discourse by supporting knowledge transfer and participation among wider and more inclusive audiences?

Paper and poster proposals

The organizers invite contributions on all aspects of the conference theme. We welcome proposals for the following formats:

Paper Presentations: paper presentations may address any aspect of the conference theme and its three sub-topics. Speaking time is strictly limited to 15 minutes.  Papers will be grouped into thematic panels with time for joint discussions at the end.

Flash Talks: flash talks offer participants the opportunity to present projects, topics, and questions related to the conference theme in a concise format.
Speaking time is strictly limited to 5 minutes. Flash talks will be grouped into thematic panels, with time for joint discussions at the end.

Posters: a poster session will showcase ongoing projects in the academic heritage community. All topics are welcome. Posters will be exhibited physically and should be printed in A1 portrait format (594mm × 841mm).

Project Speed Dating: this newly launched format offers the opportunity to present new projects or project ideas by individuals or teams looking for partners or collaborations. All topics are welcome. Speaking time is strictly limited to 5 minutes. Presentations will be grouped together in a panel, followed by time to connect on a one-to-one basis.

Round Tables: Round tables offer the chance to approach key topics in a broader perspective. Short keynotes presented by speakers on stage will serve as points of departure for a joint discussion with the audience. We welcome proposals for keynotes addressing the following topics:

  • Collaborative Practices: Cross-encounters between Art and Science in University Collections
  • Difficult Heritage: Provenance and Restitution
  • Shaping Transformation: Future Perspectives for University Collections and Museums

Speaking time for keynotes is strictly limited to 5 minutes. Each round table will feature 3 to 4 speakers.

Pre-conference workshops

The conference will be preceded by three pre-conference workshops, to be held on Tuesday, September 24th, 2024, from 1:30 to 5:30 pm.

Workshop 1:
Natural Science Objects in Digital Collections: Opportunities and Challenges

Hosted by the Chair of Botany, TUD Dresden University of Technology and the Interdisciplinary Centre for Pietism Research at Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg in cooperation with the Saxon State and University Library

Natural History objects in collections and their metadata are increasingly being made accessible with the help of digital technologies, so that purely physical collections are becoming part of a powerful and comprehensive knowledge base. In this workshop, we will share experiences of using digitized collections and Linked Data in multidisciplinary approaches. A joint research project will serve as the basis for discussing opportunities and challenges.

Workshop 2:
Questioning Collections

Hosted by the Coordination Centre for Scientific University Collections in Germany

The workshop addresses the potential of collections from an interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary perspective and poses a wide variety of questions about objects. Drawing on examples from the various collections held at TUD Dresden University of Technology, we will consider materiality, provenance, and use of collections within academic contexts together with collection managers and workshop participants.

Workshop 3:
Object-Based Teaching and Learning Today

Hosted by the ERASMUS+ project “Teaching with Objects”

Object-based Teaching and Learning (OBTL) is of key significance for higher education, academic heritage, and university museums and collections worldwide. The ERASMUS+ project “Teaching with Objects,” supported by UNIVERSEUM, invites practitioners, researchers, and curators to share their approaches to OBTL in short presentations. We will discuss the current state of OBTL and its wider role for education and collections.

Travel grants

Both ICOM-UMAC and UNIVERSEUM offer a limited number of travel grants for conference participants.

Submission guidelines

What to submit?

Proposals for paper presentations, posters, flash talks, project speed dating, and round tables should include:

– a title;
– an abstract (max. 250 words);
– a biographical note (max. 50 words);
– 3 to 5 keywords.

Applications for the pre-conference workshops should include a letter of motivation (workshops 1 and 2) OR an abstract (workshop 3) (max. 500 words), and a short CV (max. 250 words).

For detailed information, visit:

Applications for the travel grants should include a letter of motivation (max. 500 words) and a short CV (max. 250 words).

For detailed information, visit:

Where to submit?

Submissions and applications will be accepted exclusively via the conference’s online submission portal. To access the portal, visit:


Final deadline for all submissions and applications is
January 21st, 2024.

All paper proposals will be considered by an international program committee.
Successful applicants will be notified by March 15, 2024.

More information

Questions regarding the event may be addressed to: Else Schlegel

Het KNHG is de grootste organisatie van professionele historici in Nederland. Het biedt een platform aan de ruim 1100 leden en aan de historische gemeenschap als geheel. Word lid van het KNHG.
Het Huygens Instituut beoogt de Nederlandse geschiedenis en cultuur inclusiever maken. Het ontsluit historische bronnen en literaire teksten en ontwikkelt innovatieve methoden, tools en duurzame digitale infrastructuur.