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

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 will question one another, the Humboldt Forum staff, their parents, brothers and sisters, and even strangers on the street. And the questions won’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.


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 is dedicated to studying the Humboldt Forum’s staff. The pupils will be invited to focus their sharp anthropological gaze on the decision-makers at this cultural institution. Pupils will undertake trips to the homes of the leadership team, and will be 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 will bring 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 will present 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.


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 will engage with the exhibits of the Ethnological Museum and the Museum of Asian Art this term. 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 get to know different perspectives on the objects. Through intensive exchange, their own viewing and trying out many creative drawing methods, they get to know the exhibits better and record their impressions in drawings and texts – accompanied by the Berlin artist Manuel Ahnemüller.

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


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