“TheMuseumsLab” links museums in Africa and Europe with each other

Together they explored both LIB sites: Here, ornithologist Till Töpfer shows the Adenauer Room at Museum Koenig Bonn. © Eva Niephaus


Two continents are to be brought closer together: At “TheMuseumsLab”, African and European employees from museums, scientific and cultural institutions come into direct exchange with each other. The aim is to jointly develop concepts that promote mutual learning. Started in 2021, the LIB has also been involved as a project partner since this year.

Selected from over 300 applicants, 26 African and 28 European scholarship holders will have the opportunity to exchange ideas with each other at eye level within the framework of “TheMuseumsLab” in 2022. In addition, more than 100 lecturers and mentors are involved in the project in order to leave a lasting mark on the museum landscape on both continents. In the long term, the contacts established should lead to closer cooperation that extends beyond the duration of the programme. Marie Rahn, deputy head of education and outreach at the Museum der Natur Hamburg, was now involved as a mentor for the LIB.

The project consists of several modules: After an initial kick-off, there were numerous online lectures for a week in May. Here, the focus was on coming to terms with the colonial history of both continents and its after-effects, which can still be felt today. “It was about dealing with, for example, how and which languages are used in the museums, which important perspectives are still missing today or critically questioning the origin of the exhibits again and again,” says Marie Rahn. Afterwards, all participants met in Berlin for a week in mid-June to explore the museums there as well as to exchange ideas directly with each other. Afterwards, the scholarship holders were able to explore one of the participating institutions for a fortnight.

TheMuseumsLab “Fellow” Julie Rüter, project manager at the Prater Galerie in Berlin, chose the LIB. She was given versatile insights into the exhibitions, collections and research areas at the Museum der Natur Hamburg as well as at the Museum Koenig Bonn. For her, it was a very exciting experience, as she was able to dive deep into the structure, topics and knowledge transfer of an institution in a completely different field: “Especially the research areas are extremely complex here and thus offer great challenges but also many opportunities for teaching. It would be exciting to see how artists would approach and visualise these topics.”

“I would have been more than happy to accompany another fellow from Somalia through our locations, Hamburg and Bonn, but he failed due to bureaucracy – he left no stone unturned, but unfortunately did not get a visa to stay in Germany in the end. Many other Fellows from Africa also had great difficulties with this. I very much hope this will finally change in the coming years,” Marie Rahn clarifies. “Mohamed Hussein Abdi from the National Museum of Somalia was thus unfortunately only able to meet online, he is now considering applying again next year.”

This year, “TheMuseumsLab” comes to an end with a two-week workshop in Cape Town for the scholarship holders and a final online event in November. Both the project and the LIB’s participation are to continue in subsequent years.

Marie Rahn
Deputy Head of Science Education & Visitor Management
Museum of Nature Hamburg
Leibniz-Institute for the Analysis of Biodiversity Change
+49 40 238317-918


Kick-off event:

At the Museum of Nature Hamburg, Marie Rahn and Julie Rüter explored the zoological exhibition together with other fellows during the first week…
…they gained insights into the special topics and ways of communicating that natural history museums entail. Of course, they also visited the exhibitions of geology-palaeontology and mineralogy.
Julie Rüter also looked into the collections of the Museum of Nature Hamburg: here, ornithologist Nicholas Friedman shows her specimens from the bird collection. Other stops included those in administration, education and outreach, visitor research and in the crustacean collection. On the occasion of the Open Day, there were even more insights into the LIB collections.
Also at the Museum Koenig Bonn they looked into the ornithological collection of the LIB…
…and looked beyond the collections they were also allowed into the laboratories in Bonn.
During the excursion to Bonn, other museums were also on the agenda. Like here, for example, the Rautenstrauch-Joest-Museum in Cologne, where the Benin bronzes are exhibited, which came to Cologne in the course of colonisation and are now to be returned to Africa.
Together with professional dancers from Africa, they went on the “Decolonycities Tour” by ship through Hamburg: here at the Landungsbrücken, in front of the Elbphilharmonie.


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