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University Course – Cultural Heritage in Context: The Future of the Past

Cultural Heritage in Context: The Future of the Past (UNIV 3370/5370). Cultural heritage is under threat globally as a casualty of war, economic development, and environmental changes. This course deals with the protection and preservation of the tangible and intangible products of human societies from prehistory to the present. Given the complexities of cultural heritage management, the study of cultural heritage is relevant to multiple disciplines in the humanities (art, history, history of art, languages, philosophy), social sciences (anthropology, archaeology, communication studies, economics, sociology), and hard sciences (aerospace, computer science, materials sciences), as well as law and music. It should be of special interest to students in the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC), since the military often engages conflicts that threaten cultural heritage. The course will introduce students to current issues in cultural heritage by Vanderbilt faculty and invited lecturers. Students will then undertake their own case-study of cultural heritage under threat.


Mireille Lee, Assistant Professor of Art. Lee teaches courses on the art and archaeology of the ancient Mediterranean, including Egypt. A specialist in Greek art and archaeology, she has a particular interest in the construction of gender in ancient visual and material culture. Le e’s current research focuses on the ancient Greek mirrors as social objects. 


William Fowler, Associate Professor of Anthropology. Fowler’s current research focuses on the archaeology of the conquest period in Mesoamerica. Since 1996 he has directed excavations at Ciudad Vieja, El Salvador, the site of the first villa of San Salvador, founded in 1525 and abandoned in 1545. He continues to explore his interests in the archaeology and ethnohistory of the pre-Columbian Pipils and other Nahua groups of Central America.


Course Overview

Key features:

  • This course will introduce students to the complex issues surrounding cultural heritage through a series of lectures by Vanderbilt faculty and invited experts.
  • What can be done to protect and preserve cultural heritage, an essentially human, non-renewable resource?
  • Whose responsibility is it to protect cultural heritage?
  • How do the protection and preservation of cultural heritage intersect with other human needs, such as personal safety and economic security?
  • Who owns the past, and who will determine its future?

Degree requirements fulfilled: