APRIL 26-30, 2021, 2-4 PM BST

Event Recap

The oil and gas industry currently makes well over half of the energy that is consumed in the world. Yet, the climate crisis and the unfolding energy transition may mean that the dominant position of the oil and gas industry in global energy production is changing. What is the place of oil in this transition? What will become of the industry’s enormous infrastructure? How will the oil industry be remembered in the many local communities which have been shaped by it for generations? These were the central questions of the five-day virtual workshop “A place for oil: memory of oil and place in museums across the world” which Dr Leyla Sayfutdinova organized with the Centre for Energy Ethics at the University of St Andrews.

The workshop brought together oil museum curators and leading scholars researching oil industry heritage in different parts of the world.  It aimed to initiate a conversation about the role that the oil industry heritage and its memorialisation can play in the future of oil-producing localities in the context of transition to renewable energy sources. This workshop aimed to begin this conversation and to explore the differences and similarities of memorialisation practices in oil-producing localities.  

The five-day workshop covered regions with diverse historical experiences of oil production, including onshore and offshore, industry pioneers and current producers, places where the oil industry has become a part of local culture and others where populations have remained disengaged from it. The programme included presentations from museums in Scotland, Norway, Romania, Poland, Russia, and Canada; virtual tours of Wiess Energy Hall in Houston, Texas and Norwegian Petroleum Museum, academic talks on the challenges of representing industrial heritage in Iran, Azerbaijan, Venezuela, and Qatar; and a talk on the experience of memorialisation in an older ‘sister’ fossil fuel energy, coal, in  Ukraine and the UK.

The workshop generated great interest from museum curators, scholars as well as industry professionals, and people interested in oil and heritage. We plan to continue this conversation with further events, publications, and workshops.

Event Schedule

Day 1 (26/4):

Introduction and welcome: Centre Energy Ethics
Virtual tour: Norwegian Petroleum Museum
Keynote lecture 1: Sam Alberti and Ellie Swinbank (National Museum of Scotland): Curating North Sea Oil

Museum café from 4pm

Day 2 (27/4):

Panel 1: Bobrka Petroleum Museum (Poland) and Ploiesti Museum (Romania)
Academics and heritage 1: Rose Sarkhosh (TU Delft): Oil heritage in Iran

Day 3 (28/4):

Panel 2: Museums that never happened
Leila Alieva (Oxford): Apsheron oil route, Azerbaijan
Penelope Plaza (Reading): Museo del Petróleo in Venezuela
Academics and heritage 2: Victoria Donovan (St Andrews): “No Photography!”: Guardians and Gatekeepers of Industrial Heritage Collections in the UK and Ukraine

Museum Café from 4pm

Day 4:

Panel 3: Museum of Ukhta technical University (Russia) and Oil Museum of Canada (Ontario)
Virtual tour: Wiess Energy Hall, Houston Museum of Natural Science

Day 5:

Academics and heritage 3: Karen Exell (UCL): Embracing Alien Technology: Representing the Impact of Oil in Qatar’s Museums
Keynote 2: Carola Hein (TU Delft): Oil heritage and the future of the global petroleumscape

Roundtable and Museum Café from 4pm