September 25-28. 2008 ◆ Franklin Square Inn, Houghton, Michigan, USA

Sponsored by Michigan Technological University with support from the National Science Foundation.


Over the last half-century, the recognition, advocacy, and management of industrial heritage has expanded rapidly from local avocational contexts to include national and international cultural heritage organizations, foundations, and consultancy firms.  The topic has made inroads into different academic fields, among them the history of technology, material culture studies, historic preservation, and the development of a distinctive field, industrial archaeology. The wider acknowledgment of industrial heritage is reflected also in the selection of industrial sites such as Saltaire, Zollverein, and Engelsberg for World Heritage status, in the development of an international committee dedicated to the preservation of industrial heritage sites (TICCIH), and in the emergence of undergraduate and graduate programs in Europe and the United States geared specifically to teaching and researching industrial heritage. 

Despite these developments, fundamental questions remain about how effectively to articulate practical considerations with theoretical dimensions. How do we, for instance, tie concerns like adaptive reuse, environmental remediation, community revitalization, and funding with educational themes that explore the path of technological innovation and transfer, the wider meanings of material culture, and the social transformations embroiled within industrialization? The challenges practitioners face in presenting and preserving an industrial past in the 21st century are ever more complicated given the global transformations in which former “workshops of the world” now have long histories of deindustrialization, and with it, long periods of abandonment and neglect. The problem, as Neil Cossons has recently articulated, is that first-hand knowledge and experience of industry is fast disappearing, and we can no longer assume that the significance of industrialization will remain in public consciousness.[1] 

Industrial Heritage: Premises and Practices for the 21st Century initiates deeper conversation into the connections between the practical and abstract by bringing together a small group of scholars with different but overlapping perspectives on industrial heritage. Six speakers from inside and outside the academy will contribute short position papers on different dimensions of current industrial heritage practice, namely landscape and the environment, models for educational programs, and economic development. These presentations will provide the structure for seminar-style discussions in which all attendees will participate. Field trips to local industrial sites will provide case examples for directing and advancing discussion along lines of real-world circumstances.

[1] Neil Cossons. 2007. Industrial Archaeology: The Challenge of the Evidence. The Antiquaries Journal 87: 1-52.

For more information please contact:

Paul White,, (906) 487-1446.