2016 Montreal Conference Report

Lucie Morisset, Jessica Mace and Myriam Joannette

What Does Heritage Change? This was the oft-repeated question throughout—and, indeed, the main theme of—the 2016 ACHS conference. Held in Montreal, Canada from 3 – 8 June 2016 at the University of Quebec in Montreal and Concordia University, the conference proved to be a dynamic setting for thought-provoking and thrilling exchanges. Over 800 delegates from 51 countries worldwide descended upon Montreal in order to consider the manifestations, discourses, epistemologies, policies, and stakes of heritage—as a phenomenon, a symptom, an effect or a catalyst; as a tool of empowerment or leverage; as a physical or intangible restraint or kick-off; in communities, societies, or any material or mental environment. Through some 550 of papers and posters, roundtables, public debates and research–creation sessions, scholars, practitioners and students from all disciplines came together to discuss and debate these ideas in the context of political uses, economic value, activism, expertise, co-construction, geography, language, policy, postcolonialism, law and pedagogy, to name just a small selection of topics. Throughout the entirety of the conference, enthusiastic and animated exchanges took place within all of the sessions, roundtables and debates, spilling over into the breaks and beyond.

Many of these issues were addressed by the four keynote speakers; Professor James Count Early, Professor Xavier Greffe, Professor Michael Herzfeld and Professor Lucie K. Morisset. While each speaker had a different focus, all of them explored the past, present and future of heritage and heritage practices, further providing important questions for delegates to consider and to carry forward into their own lives, as well as into subsequent conferences.

Beyond the context of formal discussions, delegates had various opportunities to explore the rich cultural history of Montreal, the province of Quebec and Canada at large through a variety of activities and tours. Layered local histories were represented. For instance, the opening reception at the Chapel of the Grey Nuns included a welcome to Mohawk land by Chief Christine Zachary Deom of the Kahnawake band council, and contemporary art installations inside and in the gardens attested to Montreal’s religious and colonial past as well as its present-day thriving art scene. In terms of local cuisine, delegates sampled Montreal’s famous smoked meat and traditional Quebecois maple taffy on snow, in the temporary sugar shack. A variety of stimulating performances were also held throughout the conference, including demonstrations of Inuit throat-singing and Yiddish chants. Opportunities to explore the host-city of Montreal and its surroundings abounded, including visits to Old Montreal, Chinatown, the Lachine Canal, the Mount Royal Summit, and the nearby indigenous community of Kahnawà:ke. All of this was capped off by a jubilant closing banquet held in the old port of Montreal, where, among other delights, delegates got to sample Quebec’s world-famous poutine, which fuelled them up for an evening of traditional Quebecois style music and dancing.

In short, the 2016 conference left us buzzing with new ideas, new possibilities, new friends, and left us counting down the days to the 2018 conference in Hangzhou, China.

ACHS Montreal Conference Website: https://achs2016.uqam.ca/en/

ACHS Montreal Conference Sessions Summary (pre-conference proposals) - download here