Humanity is witnessing a crisis of tragic proportion as war, displacement, and increasing poverty sequester the rise of cultural divisions, spread nationalism, and destroy cultural heritage within conflict zones. The MIT takes pride in being an educational institution that focuses on interdisciplinary hands-on education to address the major challenges of our times. The Future Heritage Lab embraces this mission of MIT: We work at the intersection of art, culture, and technology to advance cross-cultural understanding and counter the rapid erasure of cultural memory across the world. We build future heritage by creating new cultural forms and participatory art projects on a civic scale that link traditional crafts with new technologies, foster knowledge transfer across borders, and have a positive impact on threatened communities.
The Future Heritage Lab collaborates with communities affected by conflict and crisis to collect and preserve histories of transcultural exchange and histories of threatened monuments, artifacts, textiles, and crafts. We design and implement civic-scale participatory ART projects that function as carriers of collective memory and as mediums to disseminate them. The sourcing of stories takes place in transcultural workshops, which also aim to promote social cohesion and coexistence through knowledge exchange and co-creation. Accordingly, our workshops provide a framework for EDUCATION focused on art and cultural heritage, in which participants contribute as tutors, listeners, and creators. The artistic creation and the transdisciplinary education together form our third pillar of work: cultural PRESERVATION. Linking art, culture, and technology, the Future Heritage Lab regenerates relevance of cultural heritage for contemporary conditions and for the future.
Since its initiation in 2015, the Future Heritage Lab has achieved the following:
- Implemented five large-scale participatory art projects involving communities in the United States, Philippines, Egypt, Palestine, and Jordan. More than seven hundred people participated in the making of these projects, reaching broad audiences through high-profile international venues.
- Developed three MIT graduate courses on (1) artistic approaches to cultural preservation, (2) cultural mobilities and transcultural aesthetics involving wearable art and technologies, and (3) design for a nomadic world, engaging a rapidly growing number of MIT students interested in social and political dimensions of art and design. The number of students in some cases tripled this year.
- Established a global network of like-minded collaborators in the Arts, Education, and Humanitarian Aid.
- Is in process of launching a satellite hub of the Future Heritage Lab in Jordan with local artists, designers, and academics from Amman working with and for the residents of the Al Azraq refugee camp.