On April 26-30 our team member Dr Leyla Sayfutdinova organized a workshop “A Place for Oil: memory of oil and place in museums across the world.”

The cross-sectoral workshop brought together oil museums and leading scholars researching oil industry heritage in different parts of the world.  The workshop was informed by the urgent need to think about the future of oil-producing localities in the context of climate change and the transition to renewable energy sources. Industrial heritage and its memorialization is one area where different visions and histories of the oil industry can potentially be negotiated and reconciled. 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 opened with the keynote on ‘Curating North Sea Oil’ by Dr Sam Alberti and Ms Elli Swinbank from the National Museum of Scotland. The final keynote ‘Global petroleumscape and industrial heritage’ by Professor Carola Hein of the Delft Technical University focused on the interconnection of the local and the global in the history of the oil industry and its spatial impacts.

The workshop generated great interest from museum curators, scholars as well as industry professionals, and people interested in oil and heritage. This proves both the importance and the timeliness of the conversation that we started. After the workshop, many of the participants commented on their wish to visit and see ‘all those places.’ This is a testimony to the heritage potential of the oil industry, a matter that should be carefully considered in the energy transition. We are excited about further cooperation on this topic and are thinking about future events, including an exhibition, publications, and potentially a second workshop. Stay tuned!