Silent heritage. Asbestos objects in collections. 01/10/2022 - 30/09/2026


With the increasing awareness that asbestos poses a public health risk, regulations on asbestos removal are finally becoming more stringent (OVAM 2021). This directly effects the heritage and museum sector, since heritage collections contain many types of asbestos objects. The heritage project, Gevaarlijk erfgoed (2020-2022, ETWIE), which aimed at creating an asbestos safe heritage sector revealed that for collections, the paradigm of simply removing asbestos when present is incompatible with current collection management practices. The questions that immediately arise are the following. Is asbestos heritage? Does the removal of asbestos effect the heritage significance? How does the detrimental effect of asbestos on health weighs in on heritage significance? Who makes these decisions in a field where participation of heritage communities is encouraged? This PhD research wants to formulate answers to these questions by putting forward the following research objectives. First, we want to assess the heritage value of asbestos. Of the material itself, but also how its presence affects the heritage value of the object (Objective 1). Second, we want to map the different meanings and values asbestos can have for different heritage communities and stakeholders that are in one way or the other related to asbestos (Objective 2). This would create insight into how including different viewpoints can influence heritage significance. Third, we want to contribute to the development of methods for value based heritage assessment of difficult or toxic heritage (Objective 3). By doing so, the PhD research would not only contribute to the development of methods of collection management and museum ethics, but also add to the international theoretical debate on value based heritage assessment and difficult, dissonant, or toxic heritage.


Research team(s)

Project type(s)

  • Research Project