top of page


Live Panel Discussions

September 10, 2020.


The Biography of Objects

On a rather theoretical level, this session discusses the idea of a biographical approach to the analysis of material culture: “how do we properly read the story of an object?”. Thus, the historicity of material culture is critical and, in line with this, opportunities and limitations of material culture as a historical source within museum and academic research alike will be a focal point of the discussions. The biographies of objects will be exemplified using specific objects from the Henry-Moser-collection, exhibited in the presentation hall of the Bernisches Historisches Museum and through a critical look at the said collection’s biographies and movements to the museum. Ultimately, this session tackles the challenge of reconstructing biographies of material objects, for which there is no written documentation.

Transformation of Meaning

In communities, objects are constituent parts or representatives of dynamic ideas and changing practices. This session draws from the remodeling of Museum der Kulturen Basel’s exhibition policies ten years ago. MKB continues to work towards disengaging objects from formerly dominant geographical classifications and reframe them within new thematic contexts. These politics of display also raise questions regarding the museum’s responsibilities regarding the narratives concerned with the material culture they preserve. Contrarily, the idea of “Indigenizing the Museum”, for instance, is an approach that aims at handing over the narrative responsibility and power over the meaning of an object back to those people who claim to have knowledge of its original meaning. A further significant aspect of this session emphasises on the undercurrents of heritagization, which describes a transformation process of material culture in itself.

De-colonizing the Museum

The story of museums is also a story of dealing with legacies from complicated histories. Today, museums and academic disciplines run the risk of being an accomplice of “the colonial” by underplaying the role of colonial ideas and practices in their emergence. The museum world has been rife with discussions around the restitution of collections acquired in colonial contexts and only very recently has this rather sectoral debate on colonial heritage in European museums received the attention of a broader and global public. In this session, we discuss museum strategies, policies and exhibition management within a process of de-colonization . One of the many responsibilities of Ethnographic museums is to challenge erroneous paradigms by producing self-critical, potentially remedial dialogues through exhibitions such as Linden-Museum`s Wo ist Afrika? Furthermore, Le Musée cantonal d'archéologie et d'histoire de Lausanne Derrière les cases de la mission takes a critical look at the activities of Swiss-French Missionaries in South Africa.

Material Culture and Religion

The session focuses on the materiality of religion and the modes in which religious objectives and beliefs have been communicated through, and sustained by, material practice. We pay attention to material culture as a crucial feature of religion following cross-cultural and parochial examples. These may signify physical structures, apparel, ritual artefacts drawing broadly from research topics from different disciplinary perspectives.

Urban Transformations

Urbanization is understood as an agent of transformation of inhabited spaces of culture and identity. When it comes to the investigation of the histories of material culture, urban spaces pose additional challenges and feature specific characteristics. How are the transformation processes invented and expressed through the lens of urban morphology? Furthermore, serial and mass products seem to rid themselves of singularity and uniqueness, while in heritage studies and practice, these qualities seemed to be essential for the definition of an object’s cultural, social, or historical significance. Material culture and heritage in urban spaces

therefore require particular attention.

Museology and Representation

Museums have institutional power over the transformation of meaning and memory, and play a critical role in the “politics of display”; this role calls for critical exploration of the responsibilities of the museum and the archive in creating narratives and establishing an object`s history. Here, the role of the curator seems to be critical, although the function of the curator might not only be limited to the museum curator but to all persons that fulfil the role of an artefact’s interpreter, be it on a subjective day-to-day basis or under scientific scrutiny.

9:30 -10:00



10:00 -10:45

Session One

The Biography of Objects

Prof. Dr. Nicholas Thomas

  Prof. Dr. Beate Fricke 

Dr. Meekyung MacMurdie

Dr. Alban von Stockhausen

Chair: Dr. Michael Toggweiler

10:45 -11:00

coffee Break


11:00 – 11:45

Session Two
Transformation of Meaning 
Dr. Anna Schmid

Prof. Dr. Philipp Schorch

Dr. Carine Ayélé Durand 

Prof. Dr. Michaela Schäuble

Chair: Gudrun Föttinger

11:45 -12:00

Coffee Break


12:00 -12:45

Session Three
Decolonising the Museum
Dr. Boris Wastiau

Dr. Lionel Pernet

Dr. Grégoire Mayor

Dr. Sandra Ferracuti

Chair: Dr. Alexis Malefakis




14:00 -14:45

Session Four
Material Culture and Religion

Niklas Wolf.

Roberto Costa.

Susan Marti

Chair: Prof. Dr. Urte Krass

14:45 -15:00

Coffee Break


15:00 -15:45

Session Five
Urban Transformations

Carl Deussen 
Julien Glauser 
Etienne Wismer
Chair: Carine Ayélé Durand

15:45 -16:00

Coffee Break


16:00 -16:45

Session Six
Museology and Representation

Cécile Bründlmayer

Mary Mbewe

Zumrad Ilyasova

Floriane Morin

Chair: Dr. Julien Glauser

16:45 -17:00

Coffee Break


17:00 -17:45

Roundup Discussions

Zainabu Jallo
Samuel Bachmann

bottom of page