European Commission - 7th Framework Programme European Museums and Libraries in/of the age of migrations last updated: February 2015

Challenging Memories: Silence and Empathy in Heritage Interpretation

17-19 July 2013

Buckfast, Devon, United Kingdom | Buckfast Abbey conference center



Funded by the AHRC, the network ‘Silence, Memory and Empathy in Museums and at Historic Sites’ has been working for two years to explore the diversity of approaches to silence and empathy, to share practice and develop ways of working between academics and practitioners.

We would welcome papers from heritage professionals, practitioners and academics which look at topics of memory and history through the lenses of silence and empathy.

The network builds on the work done since 2009 by the Challenging History group, which has been exploring issues raised in work with difficult, contested and sensitive heritages in a range of museum contexts, within and beyond the UK. The conference aims to expand the network and offer the opportunity for professionals to examine practical and theoretical issues of silence and empathy within the unique setting of the Benedictine monastery at Buckfast Abbey.

The programme will foster collaboration and shared understanding between academia and the heritage sector, and offer opportunities for networking, demonstrating approaches and practice, and presenting empirical research.


Papers might address, but are not limited to, the following questions:

  • How does representation in museums and at heritage sites produce and/or make use of positive and negative silences?
  • How do audiences respond to silence?
  • How can we conceptualise spaces of silence?
  • Do participation and co-production in heritage aid empathetic engagement?
  • What can museums and heritage sites offer in terms of empathy that other forms of memory cannot?
  • How can we make an instrumental case for capturing experiences of silence and empathic unsettlement?


We welcome abstracts of 250 words outlining one of the following:

- 20 minute paper presentation
- 90 minute workshop
- 90 minute panel presentation with discussion
- Performance/storytelling

We particularly welcome proposals for practical sessions which may involve the sharing of best practice and/or risk taking in educational delivery in museums and at heritage sites. We also particularly welcome papers co-written by academics and practitioners.

We aim to publish a selection of papers resulting from the conference.

Deadline for submission of abstracts: 14 December 2012

Please send to: Dr. Joanne Sayner ( You will be notified by January 2013 if your paper has been accepted.


Funding and costs
Non UK European participants can apply for a Grundtvig Visits and Exchanges grant to attend the conference The conference will be listed on the Grundtvig catalogue.

Unfortunately, UK-based colleagues will be unable to apply for a Grundtvig grant for the conference fee and will be offered concessionary rates to attend the conference



» link to the Conference