Lighting the Ruhr: Exploring the use of artificial light and light-based technologies at industrial heritage sites in the Ruhr region

This project is based at the Institute for Social Movements, Ruhr Universität Bochum and is funded by the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation.

Hansa Coking Plant, DortmundOnce the heartland of Germany’s steel and coal industries, the Ruhr region played a key role in the nation’s post-war Wirtschaftwunder (‘economic miracle’). Since deindustrialisation (1980s -1990s) industrial heritage has become central to the Ruhr’s cultural, economic, social and spatial restructuring and artificial light has been implemented to present and promote sites. Ironworks are floodlit at night for nocturnal tourism, landmark industrial structures are illuminated and light art has been installed on mine heaps as a memorial to the region’s industrial history.

The aim of the project is to consider how lighting and lighting technologies have been used to create, transform and communicate industrial heritage in the Ruhr region. To do this, the project is structured around the following four themes:

  • Layering of light: considering consider innovation and redundancy.
  • Intention and effect: different aims and effects of different lighting strategies.
  • Ruhrgebiet culture: the wider cultural context of light festivals, industrial heritage events and the use of light-based technologies within light-art installations that commemorate the region’s industrial past.
  • Diurnal and nocturnal fieldwork: to critically reflect on the practice of conducting diurnal and nocturnal fieldwork in order to document and observe different lighting strategies and effects throughout the day/time of the year.

In 2017-18 multi-sited fieldwork comprising site surveys, interviews and participant observation will be carried out at a sample of sites in the Ruhr region, selected to target different types of industrial heritage including architectural highlights, industrial parks, light-art installations and a World Heritage Site. Archival research is also an important aspect of this project, a number of archives in the Ruhr contain relevant material including site plans, architectural drawings, photographs and film footage.

Related outputs

‘Lighting the Ruhr: studying artificial light at industrial heritage sites’
(paper at Joint Meeting of DGAMN and SPMA at the German Maritime Museum / Leibniz Institute for German Maritime History, Bremerhaven), 20 September 2017.

‘Lighting the Ruhr: studying artificial light at industrial heritage sites’ paper in New directions in archaeological studies 1500 – 2000 session (European Association of Archaeologists, Maastricht, session organised with Harold Mytum), 30 August 2017.

‘Lighting the Ruhr’, presentation to members of the Ruhrpottfotografie group, with Trent Bates, Essen, 13 July 2017.

Lighting the Ruhr’, poster presentation, Network Meeting of the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation, Dresden, Germany, 6 April 2017.

David Bowie Wasn’t – Spontaneous Shrines and Popular Music

research project, Paul Graves-Brown and Hilary Orange.

On the 10thLafayette Street January 2016, David Bowie died aged 69. His death elicited extensive media coverage and an outpouring of emotion from his fans which manifested in a number of material and digital shrines, both in London and New York. With this project we are conducting a longitudinal study of the development of the spontaneous shrines in London. How do these sites come into existence and how do they develop? To what extent will they become permanent (Heddon Street already has a history of more than 30 years of Bowie pilgrimage), or will fans eventually cease to visit? We are also interested in official approaches to such sites of pilgrimage. How do local authorities and building owners (such as Morleys and the Crown Estate, which owns Heddon Street) deal with the material and graffiti left at these sites? How, if at all, do museums and archives deal with the problems of accessioning non-perishable material from these sites, and how do authorities dispose of the material?