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In this newsletter:

Save the date for the CARMAH conference 
'Now, to the Future! Transforming Museums and Heritage' 

Berlin, 11-12 June, 2020

What are the most significant transformations underway in museums and heritage? What still needs addressing? And what are the most promising ways of changing museums and heritage to do so in the future?  

This CARMAH conference will look at key social, political and technological challenges for museums and heritage. Calls to decolonise museums, ambitions to diversify gallery spaces and attempts to embrace new media in traditional curatorial practise, are just some of these. What are museums and heritage doing about them? Where are the limits and aggravations, and where is the untapped potential?  

We will be bringing together wide-ranging expertise and international commentators to address key questions for the future of museums, drawing on the findings of CARMAH's major research project, Making Differences – Transforming Museums and Heritage in the 21st Century. 

The conference will include input from James Clifford, Haidy Geismar, Barbara Kirshenblatt-Gimblett, Henrietta Lidchi, Wayne Modest, Irene Stengs, with others still to be announced. It is a venue for sharing and shaping transformations from a diversity of perspectives, areas of expertise and practice. We ask participants to bring perspectives from their field and to find and connect with those of others.

We look forward to sharing more information about the conference soon.

Upcoming CARMAH Publications

Christoph Bareither
 (CARMAH) and Ingrid Tomkowiak (UZH) have edited the forthcoming publication Mediated Pasts – Popular Pleasures. Medien und Praktiken populärkulturellen Erinnerns (Königshausen & Neumann). 

The edition examines the intersection of media, memory and popular cultures: To what extent are medialised pasts an integral part of pleasure? And how, in turn, does pleasure flow into memory processes and thus the shaping of pasts? The contributions of the volume build on meaningful examples and provide analytically diverse answers to these questions from an interdisciplinary perspective.

Margareta von Oswald and Jonas Tinius have edited the book Across Anthropology: Troubling Colonial Legacies, Museums, and the Curatorial (University of Leuven Press). The book will soon be available as a paperback or as an open-access PDF.

How can we rethink anthropology beyond itself? In this book, twenty-one artists, anthropologists, and curators grapple with how anthropology has been formulated, thought, and practised ‘elsewhere’ and ‘otherwise’. They do so by unfolding ethnographic case studies from Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, and Poland – and through conversations that expand these geographies and genealogies of contemporary exhibition making. This collection considers where and how anthropology is troubled, mobilised, and rendered meaningful.

Across Anthropology charts new ground by analysing the convergences of museums, curatorial practice, and Europe’s reckoning with its colonial legacies. Situated amid resurgent debates on nationalism and identity politics, this book addresses scholars and practitioners in fields spanning the arts, social sciences, humanities, and curatorial studies.

New Research Project at CARMAH 
'Curating Digital Images: Ethnographic Perspectives on the Affordances of Digital Images in Heritage and Museum Contexts'

Since December 2019, CARMAH has been home to the DFG-funded project 'Curating Digital Images: Ethnographic Perspectives on the Affordances of Digital Images in Heritage and Museum Contexts'. The project is located within the DFG priority programme 'Das digitale Bild' / 'The Digital Image' and will bring ethnographic perspectives to bear on practices of digital curation in museums and heritage. It couples the research expertise of CARMAH – with its main applicants being Christoph Bareither and Sharon Macdonald – with perspectives and approaches of media and digital anthropology, as well as information science, with Elke Greifeneder as project co-applicant.

The empirical core of the project consists of two interconnected ethnographic studies, both focussing on the curation practices of laypeople. The first study examines how users of digital image archives view, search, sort, alter and creatively rearrange these images and for what purposes. The second concentrates on the digital image practices and social media activity of museum and heritage visitors.

New Members of CARMAH

We warmly welcome Katharina Geis and Sarah Ullrich, two new PhD candidates, as well as student assistant Tabea Rossol, who joined the CARMAH team in December 2019 and will be working on the 'Curating Digital Images' project over the next two years.

Katharina Geis focuses on online archives as well as virtual museums. In recent years, the digitisation of museums’ collections, including historical artefacts, artworks and paintings, has received both significant public attention and funding. Today, users can access a growing number of digital archives and virtual museums at any time and from anywhere in the world. As part of the 'Curating Digital Images' project she will combine approaches of media and digital anthropology as well as empirical ethnographic studies to understand who interacts with these digital objects and how visitors use online archives and virtual museums. This includes how users view, search for, sort, share and curate the digital images they find on these websites and platforms as part of their everyday life.

Sarah Ullrich's main research focus is on the creation and curation of digital images on social media. Since museums and their visitors are of particular scientific interest to my research, she will work closely with CARMAH’s partner institutions. Her ethnographic research focuses on how visitors themselves become part of digitisation processes and to what extent social media platforms have become digital image archives of museums and heritage in their own right. More precisely, her research will take a closer look on how users select, alter, arrange and contextualise digital images on social media platforms. Further, she will explore identity-creating practices and narratives in relation to digital images and social media in museum and heritage contexts. 

Tabea Rossol will support the team in organisational matters as well as in maintaining and developing the project’s online presence. She will assist in the research process with transcription and coding as well as conducting background research.

Tabea Rossol

New research project at CARMAH 
'Challenging Populist Truth-Making in Europe: The Role of Museums in a Digital 'Post-Truth' European Society'

The project aims to challenge populist truth-making in Europe by relating ethnographic research in museums with innovative science communication measures in order to develop best practices for cultural institutions. It sheds light on how museums and their visitors are affected by populist truth-making and uses these insights for the development and evaluation of a digital museum app that fosters the critical citizenship skills of young visitors. The project is a collaboration of researchers in Berlin (project leaders: Christoph Bareither and Sharon Macdonald), London (Haidy Geismar) and Krakow (Roma Sendyka) and museums in the respective regions, supported through a review board with members from other European countries. 

In the first phase, the project team will study the impact of populist truth-making on museums and their visitors in Germany, the UK and Poland, by combining an explorative interview study with indepth ethnographic research within museums’ physical and digital spaces. While the researchers will focus mainly on the perspective of museum professionals in the first year, they will conduct ethnographic visitor research in the second year, asking how visitors experience the “affective contact zones” of museums in relation to post-truth practices and emotional truth-making.

In the second project phase, the team intends to build upon the re-search findings in order to develop and implement a museum app together with a company and in cooperation with three partner museums. The purpose of this app is to challenge young visitors to critically engage in practices of populist truth-making. The research group further aims to analyze and evaluate the app and its use in order to gain critical knowledge about the potential of digital media in museum contexts. A best practice portfolio is developed, including an audio-visual documentation of the project, a policy paper and a set of principles for the design of digital museum apps.

The project will start in September 2020 and will integrate three PhD students and one Postdoc researcher. The positions for the PhD students at HU Berlin, UCL London and JU Krakow will be advertised shortly. More information will follow soon.

A warm welcome to visiting scholar Colin Sterling

CARMAH is happy to welcome Colin Sterling, AHRC Early Career Leadership Fellow at UCL Institute of Archaeology, London. He will be based in Berlin until later this year.

His current research looks at the different ways in which new approaches to immersive and experiential design might contribute to critical heritage thinking and practice. This two year project involves interviews and workshops with artists, curators, designers, architects and others who are developing innovative new approaches to the production of 'experiences' within and beyond the heritage sector. He is also working with the National Trust - one of the project partners - on a co-curated interpretive experience to be launched at the end of 2020. He'll be based at CARMAH until mid-March, and plans to use the time in Berlin exploring some of the interesting work that is happening in the city around immersive art and experiential design. He's hoping to meet with various people engaged in both the critical and commercial aspects of this growing field, and get a sense of how this work might be impacting on current museological developments.

The other strand of Colin's research considers the implications of posthumanist thinking and the Anthropocene for the heritage field. He is currently editing a book on this topic and co-authoring another with Rodney Harrison. If you'd like to know more about either side of his work, he welcomes questions at

Research Meetings and Museums Lab

Since October 2019, CARMAH’s popular series of research meetings has been combined with the Museum Lab. This series of meetings is open to practitioners, students, researchers and those working at the intersection of theory and practice. Each week, invited guests present their ongoing research and inspire fruitful discussions.

Meetings so far have included:
For more information about the Museums Lab, past events and upcoming Research Meetings, please visit our website.

Current Opportunities

Applications are currently open for a W1 Junior Professsorship in Social Anthropology/ European Ethnology with emphasis on Cultural Expression.

A tenure-track Junior Professorship – open to those who have completed their PhD within the past four years (or more, for maternity leave etc) – is available from October 2020. The deadline is 5th February 2020. To find out more, please click here.

Upcoming CARMAH Presentations, Talks, Workshops....

More upcoming and past events on the website!

Images included in this email have been provided by: Königshausen & Neumann, University of Leuven Press, Katharina Geis, Sarah Ullrich, Tabea Rossol, Colin Sterling, and Duane Jethro