Concept note draft 2022-05-15 PDF to download

ICOMOS University Forum “Knowledge Areas for Heritage Education” – June 3-4 , 2022

The first event of Just Transitions: Heritage Education for Climate Adaptation is organized in partnership with ICOMOS/ICOMOS Canada by Canadian academic members of the Climate Heritage Network and the National Roundtable for Heritage Education, as the first online ICOMOS University Forum. This Forum will focus on identifying and defining knowledge areas for heritage education that can support adaptation of places and communities to changing climates. Later JTHECA events planned for Fall 2022 will showcase related educational models and involve students in learning through case studies.

According to the Adaptation Learning Network’s Climate Adaptation Competency Framework, “Climate adaptation requires a foundation of knowledge or literacy in a number of scientific areas and from a number of different worldviews and perspectives. These include understanding and being able to consider, bridge, and apply knowledge drawn from Western climate change science and climate models, and Indigenous knowledge systems. It requires understanding and being able to apply systems thinking and climate adaptation science to a range of issues and opportunities.” ICOMOS has produced a number of reports that help identify specific competency areas to be developed in heritage practices. This event’s discussion recognizes the value of many of the recent ICOMOS reports on climate change as foundation resources, notably the 2019 Future of Our Pasts ‘outline’.

Recognizing the specific challenges in university-level education, the overarching objectives of this ICOMOS University Forum include to

  • help develop shared understanding of basic knowledge gaps or strengths, to offer an introduction and overview of the areas of study to be included in heritage education that will support increased competency in graduating students.
  • to enable educators to hear from experienced peers about opportunities and barriers to integration of these knowledge areas in existing heritage education in diverse disciplines, professional development, and training contexts
  • equip participants with an overview of available resources in these areas, starting from academic literature to pedagogical tools and other resources

The programme includes four discussion panels on grouped themes, with two panels each of June 3 and 4. [1] The draft titles of the four panel themes are:

  • Climate Impacts and Heritage Vulnerability
  • Building/Urban Adaptation and Resilience
  • Materials/Resources, Reuse and Equity
  • Climate Justice, Indigenous Knowledge and Governance

The goal of each panel will be to identify and discuss key concepts to support developing competencies in climate adaptation in heritage education. Subject area experts and experienced educators in identified sub-areas will discuss the main concepts that are central to understanding these areas, as well as aspects of applicable educational approaches to be considered. To facilitate the entry into these discussions, each 3 hour session will begin with a presentation on a major concept of the JTHECA focus: on June 3 on climate adaptation and on June 4 on climate justice.

Each panel will include 4 parts: the panelists will each take ca. 7 minutes to speak generally to their knowledge area and the potential educational context, format or needs to consider. There will then be a facilitated discussion with the panelists for about 20 minutes, followed by an open discussion, using the chat function to take questions from participants. Participants will be invited to  provide additional comments through a feedback form available at the event.


Adaptation in human systems “The process of adjustment to actual expected climate and its effects, in order to moderate harm or exploit beneficial opportunities. In natural systems, the process of adjustment to actual climate and its effects; human intervention may facilitate adjustment to expected climate and its effects.” ICOMOS, 2019, The Future of Our Pasts: Engaging cultural heritage in climate action.

Panel discussions

Climate impacts and heritage vulnerability

To begin to plan for adaptation, we need to start with understanding impacts, and how to assess them, to understand the relative vulnerability of heritage places and sites to critical changes which may come about slowly or increasingly through more drastic events. In this session, our invited panelists will share their expertise and experience with concepts that include climate impacts and vulnerability assessment, teaching climate change in communities, and teaching and planning disaster risk preparedness and reduction.

Building/Urban adaptation and resilience

Much of the focus in heritage conservation for the built environment including for historic urban areas has been around climate mitigation. The relationship between mitigation and adaptation is important to examine, to help see the additional areas to understand in the context of adaptation. In this session, our invited panelists will share their expertise and experience with concepts that include building resilience and adaptation, planning adaptation for the Historic Urban Landscape, and teaching climate mitigation and adaptation in built heritage.


Climate justice “Climate justice links Human Rights and development to achieve a human-centered approach to climate action, safeguarding the rights of the most vulnerable; taking into account the needs of those at the greatest risk, particularly the poorest and most vulnerable; and sharing the burdens and benefits of climate change and their resolutions in an equitable and just manner.” ICOMOS, 2019, The Future of Our Pasts: Engaging cultural heritage in climate action.

Panel discussions

Materials/resources, reuse and equity

Reuse of the existing is at the heart of heritage practices, but strategies for both climate mitigation and adaptation draw attention to the wider built legacies of human cultures, including impacts of extractive industries embodied in the materials of the buildings reused by adaptation. Reuse in a context of social justice needs to address equitable access to resources. In this session, our invited panelists will share their expertise and experience with concepts that include the role of adaptive reuse and circularity within the Historic Urban Landscape approach, methods for assessing embodied effects of existing buildings, and the roles of traditional and sustainable building materials.

Social justice, Indigenous knowledge and governance

Emerging concepts that bridge between social justice and climate adaptation include “Just transitions”,  and “Building back better”. Furthermore, Indigenous knowledge systems and governance models suggest alternate strategies on how to build healthy relationships between communities of human and non-human kinds and the planet.  In this session, our invited panelists will share their expertise and experience with concepts that include the relation of social justice to cultural heritage, Indigenous heritage and community planning, and teaching Indigenous Environment/Land Issues.

Other voices 

To conclude this educator-focused initial event, a student and an emerging professional are invited reflect on how these knowledge areas build on and or challenge what they have been recently learning or experiencing in their practices. How does this event address their own concerns for heritage education on climate adaptation? What is still missing? We will also invite the participants more broadly to identify highlights from and gaps from what they have hear or potential gaps.

[1] The themes to be addressed were identified through a process of surveying academic members of the Climate Heritage Network, and do not represent an exhaustive range of subjects, but rather the priority areas of those who have participated to date. Part of what we expect will emerge through these two days of discussions will be the identification of additional areas requiring competency development and capacity building. As an event organized by Canadian academics, we recognize the limitations of our knowledge areas and experiences in these emerging areas.