On 1 September 2021, the new Leibniz Research Association "Value of the Past" began its work. It unites 20 institutions of the Leibniz Association, ranging from institutes of history and cultural studies to social and environmental sciences and research museums. The IRS is represented in the network with its Research Area “Contemporary History and Archive”.
Removals of statues and reappraisal scandals, demands for revision of the past or restitution conflicts, debates about the epochal character of the Anthropocene or disputes about the colonial legacy of the scientific exploration of the world - they all have one thing in common: the question of what value and what values societies ascribe to the past is taking up an ever greater space in debates about our social self-image. The Leibniz Research Association "Value of the Past" is now devoting itself to this question. True to the Leibniz motto "Theoria cum praxi", this is linked to the socio-political concern to reveal the often concealed orders of knowledge underlying the current transformation processes and thus to generate a deeper understanding of these processes.
The idea and the concept went back to the successful work of the Leibniz Research Alliance "Historical Authenticity" (2013-2020), in which the former IRS Department for Historical Research was also involved. Structurally, the new research alliance differs significantly from its predecessor: the research is now conducted in nine autonomously acting working groups, so-called labs.
The IRS is involved in three labs: The Lab "Materiality and Mediality" investigates the relationship between physical objects - such as exhibits in museums - and (multi-)medial, also digital representations in the production of interpretations of the past. The Lab "Digital Heuristics and Historicity" is dedicated to the question of appropriating the past in the digital age, especially with a view to archives. The Lab "Dynamic Spaces", coordinated by Christoph Bernhardt, Head of the Research Area “Contemporary History and Archive”, and Johannes Paulmann, Director of the Leibniz Institute for European History, investigates from a historical, spatial and educational perspective how spatial relations determine historical value horizons and, conversely, how these shape ideas of space. It focuses primarily on Europe in its global and colonial relations.
The research network has been approved for an initial period of four years. About 50 national and international research institutions are involved: 15 full members from the Leibniz Association, including research museums and institutes of history, social and cultural sciences; five associate members, also from the Leibniz Association; and finally about 30 international universities, institutes, museums and other academic institutions that support the network as cooperation partners. The Leibniz Centre for Contemporary History Potsdam (ZZF) is in charge of the research network.