Category Archives: Research

Research topic “Water”: Call for contributions across all disciplines

The Berlin University Alliance (BUA) cordially invites all members of the four partner universities in the design of a joint format as part of Objective 2 “Fostering Knowledge Exchange”. An inter- and transdisciplinary exhibition project with “Water” as its central topic is currently being developed in collaboration with the Helmholtz-Zentrum für Kulturtechnik (HZK) at HU and the Humboldt Labor team for 2025.

To enable the project to incorporate the ideas and expertise of all BUA partners, we would like to get an overview of the research being carried out at the four institutions dealing with the element of water in the narrower and broader sense – for example in terms of the properties of water, its functions e.g. as a catalyst or as a carrier substance, water infrastructures, or water with ecological, political, social, as well as historical, cultural, aesthetic or religious implications.

We look forward to receiving numerous and wide-ranging responses from you, regardless of the stage of your academic career.

We ask all researchers, doctoral candidates and students who feel that this topic isrelevant to them and who would like to contribute to it by sharing their research with a broader public to submit an initial expression of interest here by Feb. 15, 2024.

At this stage we are simply looking to gain an overview of available research and would later on approach you with a shortlist of questions (6 questions). You are of course free to decide at a later stage whether you would like to be more closely involved in this project or not. First of all, we would like to make sure to draw a broad and diverse picture as possible of the lively research at the BUA institutions. We would therefore be very pleased to have you participate in this quest. For further questions please contact Leonie Kubigsteltig or Xenia Muth, working in the field of knowledge exchange at HZK:

Prof. Dr. Eva Ehninger,
on behalf of Objective 2 “Fostering Knowledge Exchange” (BUA)

Expression of interest project “Water”

Image: Interactive curtain in the entrance area of the Humboldt Laboratory © HU / schnellebuntebilder. Photo: Philipp Plum

Project SODa: A data literacy center for scientific university collections

Joint project of the Coordination Center for Scientific University Collections in cooperation with the FAU Erlangen-Nürnberg, the GNM Nürnberg and the IGSD e.V.

The approximately 1,400 scientific collections held by universities and colleges in Germany and used in research and teaching harbor great potential. In order to utilize this potential adequately and in a future-oriented way, both technical data skills and digital infrastructures are required. The joint project “SODa – Collections Objects Data Literacy” will take a decisive step forward here.

Initiated and managed by the Coordination Center for Scientific University Collections in Germany, which is based at the Hermann von Helmholtz-Zentrum für Kulturtechnik at Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, SODa will develop and establish a nationwide data literacy center over the course of the next three years. The project is funded by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) with 2.84 million euros in the funding line “Aufbau von Datenkompetenzzentren in der Wissenschaft“. Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin will receive 1.2 million euros. Partners in the project are the Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg (FAU), the Germanisches Nationalmuseum (GNM) and the Interessengemeinschaft Semantische Datenverarbeitung e.V. (IGSD).

SODa will be predominantly a virtual meeting place for all those who teach and conduct research in and with scientific university collections. Data skills will be taught here via e-learning, at seminars, in working groups or in collaborations. Concepts and methods will be discussed, researched and developed collaboratively.

The primary objective is to establish concepts and knowledge of contemporary research data management that meet the specific requirements of scientific collections and their objects as well as modern criteria of openness, quality, usability and sustainability. This includes knowledge of project management, data formats, technical standards, methods of data enrichment and linking, as well as knowledge and awareness of ethical and legal issues and strategies for long-term availability.

A second focus is the promotion and further development of data-driven research in and with scientific collections, including the fields of data-driven provenance research, restoration and conservation documentation, methods of structured data analysis and methods of automated data evaluation – including AI methods.

For this work, the project will establish a cloud-based data infrastructure for gathering, analyzing, processing, enriching, transforming, linking and sustainable publication of collection and object data. This infrastructure will be available to all users free of charge. SODa will work closely with the other BMBF-funded data literacy centers, with the National Research Data Infrastructure (NFDI) and stakeholders from academia and museums.

Prof. Dr. Sharon Macdonald, Director of the Hermann von Helmholtz-Zentrum für Kulturtechnik on SODa: “It was the Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin where the material heritage of universities was rediscovered and recognized in the 1990s. It is the Hermann von Helmholtz-Zentrum, which has stood for activating this heritage as a modern infrastructure for research, teaching and transfer with the Coordination Center for Scientific University Collections since 2012. We are delighted that we can use SODa to promote the digital visibility and usability of the collections at all universities and higher education institutions!”

Martin Stricker (, Tel. 030 2093 12879), co-spokesperson of the coordination center and project manager of SODa, will be happy to answer any questions.

„BINDING BODIES. Perspectives on Bound Feet“

Starting in 2021, the Tieranatomisches Theater will launch the three-year research and exhibition project “Binding Bodies. Perspectives on Bound Feet” in cooperation with MARKK – Museum am Rothenbaum in Hamburg and the Kunstuniversität Linz.

This is made possible by generous funding from the German Federal Cultural Foundation (project description Binding Bodies), the Stiftung Preußische Seehandlung and the Alfred Töpfer Stiftung.

From 2021 to 2023, an interdisciplinary team will conduct research at the Hermann von Helmholtz-Zentrum für Kulturtechnik / Tieranatomisches Theater, MARKK and the Kunstuniversität Linz in cooperation with other international scientists and artists. The project will conclude with exhibitions that will be shown at MARKK Hamburg (2022) and the Tieranatomisches Theater (2023), among others.

Numerous ethnographic and anatomical collections in Europe contain preparations, casts, X-ray images and photos of so-called “lotus feet”, the bound feet of women in China. The research and exhibition project BINDING BODIES takes these collections as the starting point for research into the discourse history of female body modifications. Already Hans Virchow (1852-1940) and his colleagues draw comparisons to lace dancing, high heels and corsets in their publications. The project attempts an “entangled history” of female body deformations between Europe and China. It examines the complex interactions of self-perceptions and perceptions of others, reconstructs exemplary object biographies and contextualises them against the background of colonial, gender, social and scientific history. Thus, the project is also part of the current controversy about the handling of ethnographic objects and especially human remains in scientific collections.

Curators: Prof. Dr. Jasmin Mersmann (project leader), Dr. Evke Rulffes, Felix Sattler
Project Management Organisation: Helmholtz-Zentrum für Kulturtechnik, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin
Partners: Museum am Rothenbaum. Cultures and Arts of the World (MARKK), Prof. Dr Barbara Plankensteiner, Dr Susanne Knödel, Gabriel Schimmeroth

X-ray of the lotus foot of a 32-year-old woman, taken through the shoe, 1905 © Charité, Centrum für Anatomie, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, Photography: Barbara Herrenkind

„Digitales Netzwerk Sammlungen“ – a project of the Berlin University Alliance

The project is jointly managed by the Humboldt-Universität, Freie Universität and Charité, but refers to partners of the Berlin University Alliance. The aim is to evaluate IT systems and digital strategies, taking into account different perspectives of scientific use, networking and cataloguing of collections, as well as subject-specific needs. Case studies on collections, usage and digitization scenarios will be used to develop recommendations for action that will serve as the basis for a sustainable collection infrastructure for Berlin’s universities.

The Koordinierungsstelle für Universitätssammlungen in Deutschland (HU), with its nationwide and international expertise in this field, is accompanying this project as a partner.

In addition, the overarching and transdisciplinary approach and strategic orientation is supported by an expert advisory board.

„Digitales Netzwerk Sammlungen“ is a component of the „Sharing Resources“ workspace of the Berlin University Alliance. Access to excellent infrastructure is a decisive competitive factor in promoting research and recruiting outstanding scholars and scientists. The goal is to make the best possible use of existing resources and to be able to plan new projects jointly and thus more efficiently. Collections are seen as part of the complex research infrastructure, which should be transparent and accessible to the four partners.

More than 90 scientific, partly unique collections are known at Berlin’s universities. University collections were and are created in the context of scientific research or as a basis for teaching. In some subjects they form a central basis for research; in their diversity they are the basis for subject history, history of science and culture, object and collection research. The Berlin collections are mainly housed in the institutes, which favors close integration into teaching and research. The networking of the collections is still comparatively weak and poorly organized, which currently makes it difficult to use them.

A good, centralized record facilitates and enables provenance research, cooperation in teaching, scientific cooperation, exhibitions and citizen science projects. At the same time, such a system is a challenging task due to the large number of requirements and the interdisciplinary nature of the work. The aim of the study is to develop and evaluate a concept over a period of 19 months that will open up the collections as a scientific resource and at the same time support the needs of the Berlin collections.

Project management and contact

Dr. Yong-Mi Rauch (provisional Collection Officer, University Library of Humboldt-Universität)

Dr. Andreas Brandtner (Director of the university library of the Freie Universität Berlin)

Prof. Dr. Thomas Schnalke (Director of the medical history museum of the Charité)


Supported by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) and the State of Berlin as part of the Excellence Strategy of the Federal Government and the States