The ERIH Conference has been held annually since 2005 at different industrial heritage locations across Europe. The conferences each deal with a current topic of industrial heritage tourism. They are also a platform for people from different European countries and regions to exchange experience and expertise and to get to know each other. Speakers and participants include experts from industrial heritage sites and organisations, museums, tourism institutions, heritage conservation authorities, development agencies, academia and induviduals interested in the theme.


Cultural heritage is not just about preserving our past – it is about shaping our future

19 - 21 October 2022
in Esch-sur-Alzette (L) and Online

The first steps are done: Industrial heritage owes its existence to the structural changes in industry in the last third of the 20th century. Abandoned factories were transformed into venues of culture, preserving the memory of the lives and achievements of engineers and entrepreneurs as well as, and especially, of the workers. These sites convey the legacy of industrial heritage that - despite its many crises - enabled large parts of Europe to experience an era of mass prosperity.

Today, industrial societies are facing another transformation that calls its very foundations into question. “Protecting, linking and promoting Europe's industrial heritage in a changing world” is the title for our new Creative Europe programme 2022-24. This "changing world" is the generic term for challenges and new developments such as climate change, digitalisation, pandemic, gender equality, inclusion and new values - the world is in a state of transformation and this naturally also has an impact on industrial heritage.

This transformation can be considered as the next “Industrial Revolution”. With climate crisis, it has become obvious that the way we produce and use things has to change fundamentally. This transformation is not only aiming at a new industry. It changes the way we look back at the industrial age. Especially younger people value it much more critically, not only in terms of its ecological consequences, but also of the intertwining of the industrial age with colonialism.

Without an understanding of this history and legacies of industrial heritage, the upcoming transformation of industrial society won’t be successful. But when the smoking chimney of the steam engine becomes a portent of the climate crisis and the miner in the coal mine is no longer a working hero but also a symbol of a "fossil" patriarchy, the image of industrial heritage is questioned, as well as the way we communicate with the public.

These are important, justified insights. They force us to play a more active role in this transformation, to rethink our own operations and make them more sustainable. And in order to reach people, we have to tell our stories differently. We need to address also critical issues inextricably linked to industry. This requires new ways of storytelling at the venues of European industrial heritage.

With the "European Green Deal" and the "New European Bauhaus" the European Commission has defined framework concepts which are important guard rails for our common European value system.

Invitation to Speakers

We are inviting speakers from a wide range of backgrounds, involved in site and infrastructure management, marketing and tourism as well as programming and education, practitioners as well as academics or volunteers. Presentation topics range from new strategies of storytelling and visitor programmes to collaboration projectswith “living” industry or best practice examples of how industrial heritage sites can be made fit for the changing world and its new demands. We encourage speakers from outside the industrial heritage community to share their perspective on industrial heritage and the necessary transformations with us.

Questions to be addressed:

  • How can we tell the story of industrialisation in a less backward-looking and glorifying the past way? What are appropriate, sustainable new narratives (also for the young generation) for industrialisation and its significance for the present and future?
  • How can we relate our "old stories" to current challenges such as climate change, migration, gender equality, inclusion, etc.? What are the stories untold up to know (and whose stories?) that we have to tell, i. e. those dealing with colonial aspects or forced labour of our sites?
  • How can industrial heritage sites take their responsibility as an actor and part of the European Green Deal?
  • How can industrial heritage sites make their operation more sustainable? How can we make site visits of our guests more climate friendly? Can and should we proceed in consuming fossil energies, having in mind that some of our most popular visitors’ attractions are fuelled by them, but in using them we also risk losing credibility? Are there adequate substitutes?
  • Which stories can be told so that industrial heritage will be seen not as part of the problem but as part of the solution? Which knowledge embodied in industrial heritage sites is valuable for a successful transformation into a post-fossil society? How can it become a more prominent part of our education and mediation programmes?
  • Are there already good examples of cooperation with producing industry, research and educational institutions?
  • Which partners do we need for that and are they prepared to cooperate?

Interested persons should submit a précis of their paper in English (not exceeding 2,000 characters) to the ERIH Secretariat  by 23rd June 2022.

Call for papers with more information



How industrial heritage sites accepted the pandemic challenge and survived the crisis

6 - 8 October 2021
at ERIH Anchor Point Museum of Industry. Ghent (B) and ONLINE

The topic of the conference was “Resilience”. The event explored how industrial heritage sites have survived the Covid-19 pandemic and developed interesting and imaginative ideas for ongoing development in a post-pandemic world.

Resilience is defined as “being able to recover quickly from difficulty or distress”. The conference provided a timely opportunity to share experience on how sites and attractions are recovering from the impact of Covid and extended periods of closure. The conference also explored ways to mitigate against wider and long-term impacts on the protection and promotion of our industrial heritage.

Conference programme 
Presentations held on the conference
Photo gallery of the conference
Recording of the conference on our YouTube channel


Succession Planning for Industrial Heritage

Hybrid: 7/8 October 2020 at LVR Industrial Museum Altenberg Zinc Works. Oberhausen (D) and ONLINE

Industrial Heritage is more than just industrial buildings and machinery, that is, the “tangible” remnants of industry. Industrial Heritage also includes the complex knowledge of running and maintaining machines, of numerous techniques and skills as well as of sector-specific social routines and intangible heritage. But this knowledge is in danger of being lost with the passage of time. Today heritage organisations are increasingly facing the retirement of their first generation professionals and volunteers – staff who experienced at first-hand life within these industrial communities. Against this background effective methods are needed for transferring and sharing knowledge with new staff and volunteers that engage in the field.

Most heritage institutions are facing these problems in a more or less similar ways. Therefore the presentations held at the conference introduced excamples how we can protect industrial heritage by ensuring that skills and knowledge are passed on to future generations. It also provided a platform for exchange and critical debate of experiences in the field of knowledge transfer and succession planning.

Conference programme 
Presentations held on the conference
Photo gallery of the conference


Successful industrial heritage marketing through combination with wider tourism offers

16 to 18 October 2019 ERIH Anchor Point 'German Technical Museum' in Berlin, Germany.

The growth of international tourism during the 21st century has been phenomenal and industrial heritage tourism is losing more and more its niche market image and is on its way to be recognized as a respected part of our cultural heritage. Although this is good news, the question is if industrial heritage on its own is enough for long-term attraction of visitors and for the stimulation of repeated visits? Or if linking the promotion of industrial heritage more fully with other sectors of tourism is the success factor for future tourism marketing?

Nearly 90 persons from 19 countries registered for the conference. Different speakers presented innovative and best practice examples of how the promotion of industrial heritage can be combined with other sectors of tourism. In workshops we encouraged discussions about experiences and fostered the exchange between delegates. ERIH also offered a poster session during the conference.

As in previous years the ERIH Annual Conference 2019 included the ERIH General Assembly (for ERIH members only), two evening events and excursions before and after the conference programme.

Our hosts, the Berliner Zentrum Industriekultur (bzi) and the ERIH Anchor Point Deutsches Technikmuseum (German Technical Museum), developed an exciting and interesting programme to give insights in Berlin's industrial heritage.

Conference programme
Presentations held on the conference
Photo gallery of the conference