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Spas as Common European Cultural Heritage; First European Spa Conference in Baden-Baden

Nov 06, 2019 - Nov 07, 2019
Under Construction: Spas as Cultural Heritage

Under Construction: Spas as Cultural Heritage
Image Credit: Henrike Schmidt. The European Spa Project

Spas as Common European Cultural Heritage

Workshop and project meeting of the HERA research project “The European Spa as a Transnational Public Space and Social Metaphor”

Baden-Baden, 6-7 November 2019

In May 2019 Baden-Baden, together with ten other renowned European Spas in seven different countries, submitted an application for UNESCO world heritage status, neatly illustrating how important questions of history and cultural heritage are for spas and health resorts today. Historical testimonies of the spas’ illustrious past like Grand Hotels, Kurparks or casinos still dominate the cityscapes. They are used for city-branding and -marketing, regardless of whether they still serve their original purposes or have been refurbished for new uses. 

The HERA project “The European Spa as a Transnational Public Space and Social Metaphor” invites interested scholars and practitioners in the field to discuss the role of a common European spa heritage for the future development of health resorts. The Baden-Baden meeting on 6 and 7 November 2019 focuses on questions such as:

  • To what extend do history and heritage matter for the current developments in contemporary spas across Europe?
  • How exactly is this heritage framed geopolitically, i.e. locally, nationally or transnationally, as in the UNESCO initiative? 
  • Are some historical periods preferred over others, i.e. a ‘golden age’ in the 18thand 19thcenturies over the 20thcentury (which is often perceived to be more problematic in the context of ‘mass politics’, ‘mass production’ or ‘mass consumption’)?
  • Which elements of spa life and spa culture are emphasised at the expense of which others? Is there a common understanding of what ‘spa heritage’ actually means?
  • How ‘usable’ is the past and the material heritage for the further development of spa towns, and how does it relate to the changing ideas about what health (‘wellness’) and recreation means in the 21stcentury?

Participation in the workshop is open and free of charge for all interested scholars and practitioners in the field, except for the closed sessions on thursday morning and afternoon. Please register until Friday, 11 October 2019 by sending an email to Wiebke Kolbe: wiebke.kolbe@hist.lu.se


Wednesday, 6 November 2019
Venue: Town Hall, Gemeinderatssaal

Workshop: Uses of the Past. Past and Present of Spas and Seaside Resorts in Historical and Literary Scholarship

Panel one: Tracing Paradigm Shifts

  • 2pm Wiebke Kolbe: Health and Leisure in the Seaside Resort: the De-medicalisation of Discourse and Practice
  • 2.30 Astrid Köhler: Changing the Setting in early 20th-century Novels: From the Spa to the Sanatorium
  • 3pm Discussion

3.30 Coffee break

Panel two: Experiences from the Margins

  • 4pm Christian Noack: Stalin‘ s Spas: Reinventing ‚Feudal‘ and ‚Bourgeois‘ Bathing Practices under Socialism
  • 4.30 Henrike Schmidt: Lost Paradises. Health Resorts in Post-Soviet Literature as Settings for Political and Social Transformation
  • 5pm Discussion

5.30 Break

6pm Public reading with Dubravka Ugrešić from her novel ‘Baba Yaga Laid an Egg’, 
a spa novel introducing a female perspective on the history and culture of the European health resort. (Venue: Alter Ratssaal des Rathauses Baden-Baden, with German translation)

Thursday, 7 November 2019
Venue: Town Hall, Gemeinderatssaal

10am Launch of ‚theeuropeanspa.eu‘ website

10.30 Workshop: Curating spa/resort heritage in the 21th century: Regional and Transnational Approaches 
Closed session (upon invitation)

Reports from the APs: My spa and its cultural heritage (museums in Harrogate (UK), Sopot (PL), Norderney (D), Baden-Baden (D), Bad-Wildungen (D), Opatija (HR) and Brijuni (HR); European Association of Historic Thermal Towns

2pm Presentation and discussion of concept for the exhibition modules
Closed session (upon invitation)

4pm Coffee break

4.30 Public Panel Discussion: Looking for the future in the past? History and Heritage in Spa and Resort Development. 

Participants: Lisa Poetschki (Department of World Heritage nomination and Urban design of the City of Baden-Baden), Paul Simons (Scientific Committee of the European Association of Historical Thermal Towns), Dr Nataša Urošević (Juraj Dobrila University, Pula), Moderation: Christan Noack (University of Amsterdam) (Venue: Alter Ratssaal des Rathauses Baden-Baden, with German translation)

6pm End of conference 

Time & Location

Nov 06, 2019 - Nov 07, 2019

Rathaus Baden-Baden
Marktplatz 2
D-76530 Baden- Baden

Rathaus Baden-Baden (Town Hall Baden-Baden)