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Presenting Contentious Scientific Topics in Exhibitions

Together with the Technical University of Munich, the Leibniz-Institut für Wissensmedien (IWM) Tübingen and the Deutsches Museum in Munich, the Institut für Museumsforschung of the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin is working on a DFG transfer project.

The goal of this project is to put together a prototype exhibition section in the Deutsches Museum based on empirical evidence, in which museum visitors are appropriately provided with contentious information on a current scientific and technical topic. In addition, the project will create an evidence-based, practice-oriented website for the effective presentation of contentious information in museums and exhibitions.

In concrete terms, the  project seeks to develop a concept for an exhibition section on the topic of meat production, which is to be implemented as part of the exhibition Agriculture and Nutrition, which opens in 2020. Upon the conclusion of the exhibition, a summative evaluation of the exhibition section will be carried out, which is then to form part of the permanent exhibition of the Deutsches Museum.

The empirical evidence is based on the following three sources: outcomes from psychologically informed visitor research and research on the cognitive processing of contentious information, outcomes from two preceding projects and other museum-related projects, as well as a needs-assessment that will clarify how curators and exhibition-makers deal with the presentation of contentious themes. In addition, visitors to the Deutsches Museum will be asked about their prior knowledge, attitudes and expectations regarding the theme of the exhibition. Finally, a series of empirical studies will analyse and compare different ways of presenting contentious information by way of design variations with regard to their motivational and cognitive effects on visitors.

The Institut für Museumsforschung will oversee the empirical studies and develop a permanent display on the topic of presenting contentious issues and research-based exhibition development for the German-speaking museum community.


Research Team: Institut für Museumsforschung: Frank von Hagel, Dr Patricia Rahemipour
Partners: Technical University of Munich School of Education, Leibniz-Institut für Wissensmedien, Deutsches Museum München
Funded by: Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG) – project number 326617876
Duration: September 2017 to September 2020