Upcoming Conference: Politics of Natural History: How to Decolonize the Natural History Museum?

Natural history museums preserve a considerable, yet often unacknowledged part of the world’s colonial heritage. Their identity, collections, exhibitions and, importantly, much of their research activities are based on objects which underwent multifold translocations from colonized territories to museums in the Global North. Natural history museums took advantage of colonial endeavours and were deeply entangled in the exploitation of the colonies. However, natural objects are often displayed as “of Nature” – and framed within a narrative of Western scientific accomplishments and rationality. The complex histories of acquisition as well as the political context of the discovery and translocation of objects are thus rendered invisible. The workshop takes the growing tension between the entangled history of natural history museums and colonialism on the one hand and the invisibility of those entanglements on the other as a starting point for considerations about decolonization.

The workshop is conceived and organized by the joint project “Dinosaurs in Berlin. Brachiosaurus brancai as an Icon of Politics, Science, and Popular Culture”:
Ina Heumann (PAN – Perspectives on Nature, Museum für Naturkunde Berlin)
Holger Stoecker (Institute for Asian and African Studies, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin)
Mareike Vennen (Institut für Kunstwissenschaften und Historische Urbanistik, Technische Universität Berlin)

Funded by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research
Further information: https://www.museumfuernaturkunde.berlin/en/forschung/leitthemen/dinosaurs-berlin

Contact & Registration (closing date August 30, 2018): pan@mfn.berlin

Programm

Thursday, September 6, 2018

From 9:00 Registration

9:30-11:00 INTRODUCTION

9:30 Welcome Address
Ina Heumann, Holger Stoecker, Mareike Vennen, Joint research project “Dinosaurs in Berlin”

10:00 Keynote Lecture: Conquest, Care and the Fossil Complex
Ciraj Rassool, University of the Western Cape

11:00 Break

11:30–13:20 SESSION I: Politics of Presentation
Chair: Patricia Rahemipour, Botanischer Garten und Botanisches Museum Berlin-Dahlem, Freie Universität Berlin

11:30 Decolonizing Botanical Collections
Anna Haebich, Curtin University

12:10 Web-like Analogies as a Decolonizing Order in Natural History Display
Fritha Langerman, University of Cape Town

12:50 Comment: Jonathan Fine, Ethnologisches Museum, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin –Preußischer Kulturbesitz

13:20 Lunch

15:00–16:50 SESSION II: Politics of Participation
Chair: Sybilla Nikolow, Museum für Naturkunde Berlin

15:00 The Natural History Museum and the Pluriverse: Decoloniality at the Periphery
Ayesha Keshani, Goldsmiths, University of London

15:40 Putting Metadata to Work: Modelling Information on Historical Collections of Natural History in Social Justice Contexts
Martha Fleming, British Museum / University of Göttingen, Dominik Hünniger, University of Göttingen

16:20 Comment: Tahani Nadim, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin / Museum für Naturkunde Berlin

16:50 Break

18:30 PANEL DISCUSSION: Koloniales Erbe und Naturkunde

Larissa Förster, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin
Michael Ohl, Museum für Naturkunde Berlin
Ciraj Rassool, University of the Western Cape
Bénédicte Savoy, Technische Universität Berlin
Chair: Andreas Eckert, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin

The panel discussion will be held in German, simultaneous translation will be provided by an interpreter via head phones for the English speaking audience. English discussion contributions are welcome.

Friday, September 7, 2018

9:45 Welcome Address
Johannes Vogel, Museum für Naturkunde Berlin

10:00-12:00 SESSION III: Politics of Objects: Heritage, Property, Responsibility
Chair: Anja Schwarz, Universität Potsdam

10:00 Colonial Collections at Berlin's Botanical Museum
Katja Kaiser, CeNak – Center of Natural History

10:40 Java Man and the Colonial Legacy of Fossil Collections
Caroline Drieenhuizen, Open University of the Netherlands, Fenneke Sysling, Utrecht University

11:20 Comment: Ina Heumann, Museum für Naturkunde Berlin

12:00 Lunch

13:30-15:20 SESSION IV: Museum Practices and Politics
Chair: David Blankenstein, Deutsches Historisches Museum

13:30 Birds from the Colonies at the Museum für Naturkunde Berlin: Backgrounds, Relevance and Development
Sylke Frahnert, Museum für Naturkunde Berlin

14:10 The Natural History Museum in Nigeria: Dynamics and Impact
Lucky Ugbudian, Federal University Ndufu Alike Ikwo

14:50 Comment: Manuela Bauche, Museum für Naturkunde Berlin

15:20 Closing Remarks