“Giant Leaps For Mankind” and the Future of the Past
Thursday, August 9th
A lecture by Justin St. P. Walsh.
The protection of cultural heritage — objects associated with the human past — became a major public priority by the end of the twentieth century, with museums returning looted objects to source countries, increases in the protection of archaeological sites, and the recognition of disenfranchised groups’ right to determine how to preserve their culture. But threats to heritage are still abundant, even in contexts that might seem unlikely. In recent years, scholars such as myself have begun to lay the groundwork for protecting humanity’s shared heritage in space, before it can be damaged through neglect or willful abuse. So far, these efforts have concentrated on well-known sites and objects, such as Tranquility Base and the Hubble Telescope. Recent developments in the space industry, however, are even beginning to challenge the very notions of heritage and of ethical archaeological practice. This talk will explore how the expanding reach of humanity off our planet and into the universe can be integrated into our sense of history — and where some critical obstacles to achieving that goal still remain.