Hermann von Helmholtz-Zentrum für Kulturtechnik

Zentralinstitut der Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin

Object Lab

Innovative infrastructures for interdisciplinary object and collection research and their transfer

With the moving in of the Hermann von Helmholtz Centre for Cultural Technology in February 2019 into the extension buildings of the Animal Anatomical Theatre, the Gerlachbau and Wolffbau, groundbreaking new infrastructures for interdisciplinary projects in the object and material-centred research of the HU will be created. These will make it possible to combine laboratories, workshops, seminar rooms, and public exhibition spaces into an operative unit within the historically grown and listed knowledge architecture and will promote the transfer of methods and research results from the humanities, natural sciences, and design disciplines. The Clusters of Excellence “Image Knowledge Gestaltung” (until 2019) and “Matters of Activity: Image Space Material” as well as the partners of the Berlin University Alliance (BUA) are involved in the development of the use of the space.

Two major infrastructures span the knowledge architecture and function as recursively interrelated poles of research and transfer/mediation (see figures). The Object Laboratory with attached digital laboratory, collection depot and workshop contains workplaces for diverse knowledge practices. It combines the technical equipment commonly used in museums for conservation, restoration and exhibition preparation with the tools for analysis specific to universities and, through the modular design of the rooms and their furnishings, particularly facilitates the exchange between researchers. In the course room on the first floor, research can be transferred directly into university teaching. The room can accommodate up to 80 people for workshops, seminars and lectures and also houses the HZK reference library.

In the public exhibition space of the Tierantomisches Theater, permanent exhibitions (in particular the permanent exhibition Flechtwerk der Dinge: Sammlungsschaufenster der HU) and exhibitions with changing object holdings are used as tools for research and teaching. The goal of the research-led permanent exhibition Collection Showcase of the HU is to illustrate the multi-perspectivity of knowledge about material culture in an academic context. As a “materiothek”, it links the decentralized collections of the HU’s institutes and those of the BUA’s partners in a central location with the aim of raising new interdisciplinary research questions. The objects shown in the collection’s display window can reflect continuously updated perspectives from research through a dynamic content management system. The Collection Showcase is thus the starting point and (interim) result of projects being researched in the Object Lab.

The Object Lab and the Collection Showcase are long-term infrastructures that can be expanded in modules. Since 2014, the operational concept has been developed in cooperation or coordination with the Technical Department of the HU, the architects Müller-Reimann and Franke-Steinert, and the foundations involved in the renovation of the buildings. Construction measures already carried out, including ventilation for the fume cupboard, wet section and workshop, have created optimal conditions for further equipment. The equipment and furnishings for the object laboratory, the digital laboratory, the collection depot and the workshop were completed in autumn 2020.