Global Summit of Research Museums II

Munich, 17 - 19 October, 2022
Find the Program here.

As the most visited research institutions globally, museums reach hundreds of millions of people worldwide – virtually and physically. The tangible and intangible collections in museums play a vital role in preserving, interpreting, and making natural and cultural heritage accessible. Research in museums contributes to infrastructures of educational, social, and scientific engagement that transcend political and geographic boundaries.

The Global Summit of Research Museums in Munich reflected on the multifaceted transformations museums face as they move through geographic, political, cultural, and virtual spaces over time. More than 150 high-ranking representatives of ca. 100 institutions from 52 countries had announced their participation. The conference was distinguished by the fact that numerous museum leaders from South America, Africa and Asia participated, thereby enabling a truly global discussion, which was an important step towards further expanding cooperation between Global South and North. They focused on the particular potential, the social relevance and global responsibility of collection-based research, which allows our museums to move into their role as strategic places of knowledge production, social participation and international cooperation.

The first Global Summit of Research Museums was hosted by the Museum für Naturkunde Berlin in November 2018. Due to COVID-19, a second in-person meeting was postponed from 2021 to 2022, and a digital “Conversations” pre-summit was held in October 2021, during which central topics for the second Summit were outlined in thematic sessions over two days.

"Objects in Motion – Museums in Motion" was the GSRM II theme, building directly on the dialogues from a year before. Participants were invited to discuss the current challenges and diverse transformations that museums are facing due to the ongoing changes in geographical, political, cultural and virtual spaces. 

Particular attention was paid to discussions about restitution of objects that museums currently hold in their collections. Speakers were able to present their experiences with and the results of various projects. They stressed the point that it is not sufficient to simply return objects: rather, restitution requires inclusive processes that involve various communities and bring to the fore overlapping and complex histories. Discussions ranged widely, including how building online collections may be helpful to all those involved in restitution in different ways.

Another focus of the discussions was opening the museum, or rather the various parts of the museum, to underrepresented visitor groups. Speakers presented pilot and successful best-practice projects and encouraged peers to remove barriers to access as much as possible – some went so far as the "demusealizing” the museum. There was fundamental agreement among speakers and audience that museums worldwide can only benefit from working with communities whenever possible. The experiences of various African institutions, which have emphasized social encounter and exchange of experience much more than in the global North, showed that learning can point in two directions: from the long tradition of the museum as a place of production and transfer of collection-based knowledge in the global North to the South, but also vice versa.

One of the highlights of the conference was the evening keynote by Tasneem Zakaria Mehta, director of the Bhau Daji Lad Museum, Mumbai. In an extensive account of the renovation of the BDLM, she explained navigating politics and history, which resonated with all participants.

Another keynote by Yuliya Vaganova, Director of the Bodhan and Varvara Khanenko National Museum of Arts in Kiev, was certainly one of the most moving moments at the Global Summit. She told of the bomb that had recently landed 30 meters from the museum, bringing existential threat and damage to the works of art held within it and to the museum’s future.

Even on the third and last day, most of the seats in the auditorium were still occupied. The sustained interest and positive responses of participants – not always the case at a three-day conference! – provided proof of the productive exchange and constructive atmosphere that characterized the gathering on the whole. This success is not least due to the Leibniz Research Museums Aktionsplan II, the funding from which made it possible to finance this major international conference.

The Global Summit of Research Museums 2022 is funded by Aktionsplan Leibniz-Forschungsmuseen II, a German Federal and State government project grant to the Leibniz Research Museums, which are:

Deutsches Bergbau-Museum Bochum – Leibniz Research Museum for Geo-resources

Deutsches Museum, Munich

German Maritime Museum – Leibniz Institute for Maritime History, Bremerhaven

Germanisches Nationalmuseum, Nuremberg

Museum für Naturkunde – Leibniz Institute for Research on Evolution and Biodiversity, Berlin

Museum Koenig – Leibniz Institute for the Analysis of Biodiversity Change, Bonn

Römisch-Germanisches Zentralmuseum – Leibniz Research Institute for Archaeology, Mainz

Senckenberg Society for Nature Research, Frankfurt am Main, Görlitz, Dresden

Koordination Leibniz-Gemeinschaft

Katja Zelljadt | Internationales Aktionsplan Leibniz-Forschungsmuseen

Kommunikation Leibniz-Gemeinschaft

Elisabeth Habisch | Presse- und Öffentlichkeitsarbeit
Aktionsplan Leibniz-Forschungsmuseen

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