With the Humboldt Forum, a whole new cultural district is being created in the very heart of the city. It represents an approach that brings together diverse cultures and perspectives and seeks new insights into topical issues such as migration, religion and globalization.
Thanks to its programme, the Humboldt Forum is already offering visitors an opportunity to experience the world in its entirety. What awaits them is a series of exhibitions, films and discussions with specialists and commentators on science, art, religion, politics and business exploring the day’s burning questions. Whether in the Humboldt-Box or in rather more unexpected locations in Berlin: the Humboldt Forum creates spaces for encounters and exchange.
From 2019 onward the Humboldt Forum’s permanent exhibitions will be on display for all to see: the Ethnologisches Museum and the Museum für Asiatische Kunst (Stiftung Preußischer Kulturbesitz – Staatliche Museen zu Berlin), the Berlin exhibition (Kulturprojekte Berlin and Stadtmuseum Berlin), and the Humboldt Laboratory (Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin). In combination with the collections located in museums on the neighbouring Museum Island they will form a unique concentration of objects and artworks. At the Humboldt Forum we will also be working closely with other institutions to present some exceptional temporary exhibitions.
The Humboldt Forum will rekindle some of the ideas behind the Berlin Kunstkammer (cabinet of art) that was housed on the site – by being a place of inquiry into the world and where art and science creatively intertwine. In the 16th century a new phenomenon arose in many European royal courts: the Kunstkammer and Wunderkammer or 'cabinet of art and marvels' which aimed to unite all elements in the world in the microcosm of a collection. Objects from local and foreign cultures were divided into the categories of nature (naturalia), science (scientifica), and art (artificialia), but were also sometimes arranged and handled more freely.
The Berlin Palace was no exception to this development and artefacts of both local and non-European origin were placed on display in an area covering several rooms. They included objects from the natural world, from art and science, and historical artefacts. It was hoped that visitors to the royal cabinet of art would gain a deeper understanding of the world as a whole by being able to view, arrange, and handle the various objects gathered there. The collection was simultaneously an archive and a space for ideas. Crucial to this philosophy was Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz’s idea of a 'theatre of knowledge', which he devised with an eye to the Kunstkammer in the Berlin Palace. For Leibniz, the cabinet of art, laboratory-like in character, offered near utopian possibilities to generate and disseminate knowledge. In the 19th century, cabinets of art were handed over to public use, forming part of museums or university study collections.
The multi-layered history of the site is also an essential part of the Humboldt Forum: The Palace of the Hohenzollern dynasty, public parade grounds, the East German Palace of the Republic and finally a grassy meadow – more than nearly anywhere else in Berlin, social, urban, political and cultural developments have played out on the Schlossplatz.
The material nature of the individual objects will be supplemented with performances of dance, film, readings, music and theatre; in this respect the Humboldt Forum will be truly different from other museums. The process of establishing links and blurring boundaries between genres is entirely in keeping with Humboldt’s approach – and it’s already begun.