Past events
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About the project

Inspired by Alexander von Humboldt’s five-year expedition to America, 30 school pupils from Berlin’s Märkisches Viertel are setting off on a five-year voyage of discovery around the Humboldt Forum. Their journey will be completely in the spirit of the Humboldt brothers: courageous, creative and full of the joy of discovery.


With the help of a varying line-up of international artists, they will investigate every centimetre of the Humboldt Forum: the museum collections, the building, the history of the site, the ethical questions, the staff, the air conditioning, the museum shops, the cuisine, the international cultural sector and the pigeons on the roof. Everything!

For the duration of this five-year artistic educational programme, these young researchers will examine a new aspect of the Humboldt Forum every six months. They will then present their results to a wider audience in a series of public events.

The Humboldting! project will not only introduce the students to the many different themes of the Humboldt Forum, but above all will create meaningful and hopefully lasting personal and professional bonds between the young people, the Humboldt Forum staff and the wider museum community and cultural world.




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Artistic direction

Part 6: Everyday Drama in Humboldt Forum

Museums are known for their objects, for their displays that connect visitors with the far away. But how about the people right in front of our eyes, the front-line workers whose service makes this world of magnificence accessible to the public? Who are they and what is the everyday life like behind the sleek floor, the professional uniforms and service?

What gives them headache, and where are their secret bases in the Humboldt Forum?

Together with the students of the Thomas-Mann-Gymnasium, the performance collective from Taiwan, Prototype Paradise, and its Taiwanese colleagues based in Germany venture into the everyday drama in Humboldt Forum.

Starting from collecting museum visitors’ questions towards the unseen players, the young adults follow the work and life of these front-line workers, and process their encounters in sounds and stories, while relating to their own life and observations.

Outcomes of this joint adventure will be shared in an audio-walk performance led by students on June 28 and 29, 2024.

“Everyday Drama in Humboldt Forum” is sponsored by National Culture and Arts Foundation Taiwan, and is part of Humboldting!, a long-term project of the Stiftung Humboldt Forum im Berliner Schloss at the intersection of education and art. Artistic direction: Alice Fleming and Darren O’Donnell.


Part 5: Can We Add Value to Objects?


What is the value of an object? What value does a museum object have? Who gives it this value and can it be changed?

How does repairing or reassembling it change that value?

In the museum, objects are sometimes restored.The act of restoration itself holds profound cultural meaning. Through restoration, we acknowledge that an object’s history is not confined to its moments of perfection, but encompasses the entirety of its journey, including moments of loss and destruction.

Using a blend of modern technologies and traditional skills, the group will experiment with breaking things apart and putting them back together and so hoping to create new interesting value.

Whether and how the emotional, cultural or monetary value of these things changes, you can judge for yourself!

The research results will be presented live in an entertaining multimedia performance on February 23 and 24, 2024.

The Australian artists Ivy and Rhian Hinkley will develop the project together with the students and direct the performance. Concept development with Nicole Tsourlenes.

Make it. Break it. Fake it. is part of Humboldting!, a long-term project of the Stiftung Humboldt Forum im Berliner Schloss at the intersection of education and art. Artistic direction: Alice Fleming und Darren O’Donnell.

Part 4: What vibes are there in the Humboldt Forum and which are missing?

February 2023 – July 2023
Object under investigation: Vibes in the Humboldt Forum

What are vibes? What moods and atmospheres are there in the Humboldt Forum? And above all: which ones are missing? People often say are boring and not particularly inviting places. But is that really the case? The Humboldt Forum is a huge place, with many stories, with many exhibits – and also with many moods. For this unit, the students of the Thomas-Mann-Gymnasium have taken on a special mission: they observe which feelings different rooms in the Humboldt Forum trigger in them and investigate the vibes. Some spaces in the Humboldt Forum may be lively, energetic, others more quiet and cozy, some spooky or weird, others captivating or enigmatic.

In this edition, Humboldting! explores the atmosphere of this sometimes confusing place and asks what the new vibes are. At the end, the students will implement their research results in an installation: in four immersive rooms, they will show which vibes they would add on in the Humboldt Forum and invite the audience to experience them.


Part 3: What is where in the Humboldt Forum?

August 2022 – January 2023
Research subject: Objects in the Ethnological Museum and Museum of Asian Art

Today, Alexander von Humboldt’s travelogues and publications give us insights into how he approached nature and the environment. They include personal entries and scientific descriptions and illustrations of botanical, geographical, archaeological and ethnological objects.

Using different techniques of drawing as a form of aesthetic engagement, students engaged with the exhibits of the Ethnological Museum and the Museum of Asian Art. The exhibits inspire the pupils to engage with them artistically.

Through encounters with professional mediators who work in the exhibitions, as well as discussions with international cooperation partners who have designed the exhibitions, the pupils got to know different perspectives on the objects. Through intensive exchange, their own viewing and trying out many creative drawing methods, they got to know the exhibits better and recorded their impressions in drawings and texts – accompanied by the Berlin artist Manuel Ahnemüller.

At the end of the school semester, their artistic works were publicly displayed in a large installation in the foyer of the Humboldt Forum.


Part 2: Who is the Humboldt Forum?

February 2022 – July 2022

The life of the Forum’s directors in 100 objects.

Object under investigation: the Humboldt Forum’s executive leadership

Part 2 was dedicated to studying the Humboldt Forum’s staff. The pupils were invited to focus their sharp anthropological gaze on the decision-makers at this cultural institution. Pupils undertook trips to the homes of the leadership team, and were given free rein to investigate their lives, while developing a relationship that will extend over five years.

What is the General Director’s favourite food? What song does the Senior Events Coordinator sing in the shower, and what is the Academy Director’s favourite holiday destination? How did the leadership team come to be in their current jobs, what education, training and personal decisions led them to their positions? Do they have a sense of humour? Can they cook, and what are the names of their pets?

Based on these home visits, the pupils from the Thomas Mann school brought one hundred objects into the Humboldt Forum to share with the audience in an artistic performance. Inspired by Neil MacGregor’s ‘A History of the World in 100 Objects’, with the help of 100 objects, they presented their findings on the Humboldt Forum’s directors to the public in a theatre performance on 1 and 2 July 2022.

Darren O’Donnell and Alice Fleming have proven time and again at numerous international theatre festivals (including the London International Festival of Theatre, the Ruhrtriennale or the Kunstenfestivaldesarts, Brussels) how entertaining and challenging performance shows with amateurs can be.


Part1: What is a good question?

August 2021 – January 2022

A spotlight on the art and science of asking questions. Questions are of central importance in every research endeavour, and defining and refining good questions is the first step of an investigation. The young researchers questioned one another, the Humboldt Forum staff, their parents, brothers and sisters, and even strangers on the street. And the questions didn’t end there! One of the most important principles of Humboldting is: there is no such thing as a boring person, or a boring question. Everyone has an interesting story to tell, we just have to learn how to ask the right questions.



Stiftung Humboldt Forum, in collaboration with the Thomas Mann Gymnasium.

This project is sponsored by the Canada Council for the Arts and the Canadian government.

Thomas-Mann-Gymnasium Berlin
Canada Council for the Arts
Schriftzug der Regierung Kanadas