The employees of the Kunsthaus are internationally networked within their disciplines and across disciplines. We work together with other organisations on both profession-specific and socially relevant issues. We share our expertise and pool resources, particularly where research and science are supported with public funds or by third parties.


20-22 November

International Conference

Sensitive, problematic, contested? Challenges and opportunities in dealing with cultural heritage in museums

A collaboration between the Kunsthaus Zürich, the Swiss National Museum and the Museum Rietberg.

The handling of cultural heritage in museums has become the focus of public debate in recent years. At the centre is a critical examination of collection histories and object biographies, as well as institutional and museum practices. Numerous workshops and conferences deal with topics that are orientated towards the specifics of different types of museums. We believe that a transdisciplinary approach, i.e. between museums that differ in their museum history and discursive embedding, but which face the same questions, offers a distinct opportunity in fertilising each other in their approaches and experiences.

This is where the conference comes in. For the first time, a conference is being held in Zurich, jointly organised by the Kunsthaus Zürich with its focus on modern and contemporary art, the Swiss National Museum which specialises in cultural history and the Museum Rietberg with its collections of arts from Africa, Asia, Oceania and the Americas.

The three museums have been exploring the topic in their exhibitions and collection research for several years. The three-day international conference is primarily aimed at experts and practitioners. The focus is on the exchange of experiences from practice in dealing with objects, testimonies and stories that are considered "sensitive, problematic or contested". The aim is a lively, open exchange on topics, methodological, strategic and programmatic considerations from a wide range of perspectives.

As Switzerland holds the fifth largest share of the global art market and it counts the highest density of museums in the world, the three museums consider these questions not only as necessary, but as a chance to critically examine, challenge, revise established museum practices. The conference will explore assumptions, methodologies and practices of dealing with sensitive, problematic or contested cultural heritage through key lectures, presentations of case studies, panel discussions, exhibition tours and break-out sessions. We welcome abstracts from (museum) professionals from Switzerland and worldwide. Their contributions should be based on case studies.

Call for papers

Formal requirements

  • Max. 1 A4 page
  • In English
  • Short curriculum vitae

Closing date 30 April 2024

Contact for questions

15 minutes/approx. 2200 words are allowed for each presentation.

Case study topics may include:
New approaches and practices of research; collaborative approaches and multi-perspectivity; new perspectives on museum collections and collecting; legal and ethical issues of collecting; dilemmas and rationales for collecting, preserving and conserving; shared heritage and responsibility towards society, communities and stakeholders; digital strategies, accessibility and transparency; exhibiting, contextualising, mediating, handling and talking about objects, testimonies and stories in exhibitions.

The organisers will reimburse the costs of accommodation and meals as well as travel expenses (2nd class / economy) upon presentation of receipts.

The results of the conference will be documented and made accessible in the long term.

Call for papers PDF

In cooperation with:

Supported by: