Toxic Heritage

Collaborative research


Trash outside fenced area off area of Love Canal, Niagara Falls, NY

By on August 13, 2020

What is toxic heritage? It is, simply put, the legacy of harm humans have created. While it may include the harm of oppression, tragedies, and violence (sometimes called “dark heritage”), it is used here to refer specifically to the material harm that has left toxic residues in our air, water, and land. To understand this environmental toxicity as heritage is both to reckon with the history of deep and complex intersections among cultural practices, political economies, policies, structural racism, and ideologies, and also with the way this history is remembered (or erased) in narratives, memory practices, and public discourse. This toxic heritage is one of the most critical products of the Anthropocene – the era in which humans have become the dominant influence on our climate and environment. How we understand that legacy and address its impact, especially on the most vulnerable, is critical to our future creation of a sustainable, equitable world.

Who are we? We are a group of faculty, students, and community members committed to using rigorous research, public scholarship, and community agency to create change. Based in the Cultural Heritage Research Center, IU School of Liberal Arts at IUPUI (Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis) and coordinated by Liz Kryder-Reid, the project is open and inclusive to community leaders, industry experts, advocates, and scholars working on toxic heritage issues locally, nationally, and globally.


  • Elizabeth Kryder-Reid, Chancellor’s Professor, Anthropology and Museum Studies, IU School of Liberal Arts, IUPUI
  • Melissa Baird, Associate Professor of Anthropology, Department of Social Sciences at Michigan Technological University (USA).
  • Owen J. Dwyer, III, Professor, Geography, IU School of Liberal Arts, IUPUI
  • Gabriel Filippelli, Professor, Earth Sciences, Purdue School of Science, IUPUI
  • Laura Holzman, Professor, Art History and Museum Studies, Public Scholar of Curatorial Practices and Visual Art, Herron School of Art and Design; IU School of Liberal Arts, IUPUI
  • Sarah J. May, Senior Lecturer in Public History and Heritage at Swansea University. Wales.
  • Jeffrey Wilson, Professor, Geography, IU School of Liberal Arts, IUPUI
  • Kheprw Institute

Network of Toxic Heritage Scholars: (if you wish to be added, contact

John Baten, Postdoctoral Fellow in Spatial Analysis of Environmental Change, Department of Geography, Indiana University, Bloomington; Twitter: @hist_landscapes

Jonathan Gardner, Leverhulme Early Career Fellow, School of Art, Edinburgh College of Art, University of Edinburgh;;

Kaeleigh Herstad, PhD, Indiana University, Bloomington