Humboldt Forum
© Richard Nowitz / National Geographic Creative
The Atacama Desert

November 2, 2016 - May 1, 2017

EXTREMES! Nature, Culture and the Humboldt Current

The exhibition showcases archaeological objects and specimens of flora and fauna in order to show not only how human beings and the natural world adapt to the extreme environment, but also the interconnectedness of nature and culture, local and global events.

The cold, nutrient-rich waters off Peru are home to some of the densest fish populations on earth – while the coastal region is one of the world’s driest deserts. The cause of these extremes is the Humboldt Current, a cold ocean current named after Alexander von Humboldt that runs along the Pacific coast of South America. Every two to seven years the complex weather phenomenon known as El Niño turns the region’s climate on its head: droughts prevail on land that was fertile and rain falls in otherwise arid areas. For a brief period of time, the Atacama desert is transformed into a flowering desert.

Peru Current
Funeral bundle
Cereus Bridgesii
Atacama Desert

In keeping with Alexander von Humboldt’s understanding of the connection between the natural world and human activity, the exhibition combines aspects of culture and the natural sciences. “EXTREMES!” illustrates how various scientific institutions can work together: the Ethnologisches Museum of the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, the Museum für Naturkunde, the Botanic Garden and Botanical Museum Berlin, and the Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin. It reveals the potential of the future Humboldt Forum as a place for exchange and networking, all in the spirit of Humboldt’s ideal.


The exhibition "EXTREMES! Nature, Culture and the Humboldt Current" has been organized by the Stiftung Humboldt Forum im Berliner Schloss. It is based on a concept developed jointly by the Ethnologisches Museum – Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, the Museum für Naturkunde, and the Botanic Garden and Botanical Museum Berlin. This exhibition has been made possible thanks to the representative of the Federal Ministry for Culture and Media following a resolution passed by the German Federal Government.
  • Stiftung Preußischer Kulturbesitz – Staatliche Museen zu Berlin
  • Botanischer Garten & Botanisches Museum Berlin
  • Museum für Naturkunde Berlin
  • Federal Government Commissioner for Culture and the Media

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