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The Kunstgewerbemuseum regularly documents and researches its holdings, publishes research findings, and presents the results of its work to scholars and the wider public. It exchanges information and engages in open dialogue on scientific developments with other museums, universities, institutes and researchers across the world. The museum is internationally acclaimed for its own scientific and restoration expertise in the areas of European decorative arts from the Middle Ages to the present day, as well as fashion and design, which it is committed to upholding and advancing further. The goals of the museum’s research are clearly defined and directly relate to significant focal points of the collection.

The main topics of current research at the Kunstgewerbemuseum are:

  • Sacred art from the Middle Ages
  • Medieval jewellery
  • Furniture design during the Renaissance
  • Figurative porcelain from the Königliche Porzellan-Manufaktur (KPM) Berlin
  • 19th-century glass
  • Fashion from the 18th to 20th centuries
  • Research for the excellence cluster "Bild-Wissen-Gestaltung" (Image-Knowledge-Gestaltung) at the Humboldt-Universität, Berlin.

Research projects at the Kunstgewerbemuseum

In recent years, research on medieval sacred art has concentrated primarily on the domed reliquaries in London, Berlin and Darmstadt. Evidence indicates that all three surviving Romanesque receptacles in the shape of a domed church or cupola can be ascribed to the workshops of Cologne. In November 2011 a conservation and research project, initiated in 2007 in cooperation with the Hessisches Landesmuseum Darmstadt at the Kunstgewerbemuseum, ended with the symposium "Metamorphoses, new research on the Romanesque tower reliquary from the Hüpsch Collection" which introduced the project’s findings and new interpretations within the art-historical and liturgical context. A publication of the research is forthcoming.

Contact: Lothar Lambacher, Assistant Director, Kunstgewerbemuseum

Initiated by the faculty of theology at the Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin in 2001, the database of medieval pilgrim badges – is widely used by scholars and interested members of the public. An updated version has been available online via the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin’s server since 2011.

With its concentration on collections and finds in Central and Eastern Europe, the project PilgerZeichenDatenbank Berlin plans to strengthen ties with the research centre at the Radboud Universiteit Nijmegen in the Netherlands, which has compiled a database focussing primarily on medieval pilgrim badges in Western Europe:

Contact: Lothar Lambacher, Assistant Director, Kunstgewerbemuseum

The Kunstgewerbemuseum possesses one of the most significant collections of Italian Renaissance furniture in the world. Most of the pieces were acquired between 1875 and 1900. In addition to purchases by the first director Julius Lessing, the collection includes many acquisitions made by Wilhelm von Bode for the Kaiser Friedrich-Museum, today’s Bode-Museum, which were later transferred to the Kunstgewerbemuseum. A catalogue of the Italian Renaissance furniture at the Kunstgewerbemuseum was last published during the Weimar Republic and has only been updated intermittently since that time. A thorough scientific analysis of the collection, today comprising 210 pieces, is still lacking. Following majolica, Venetian glass, medals and plaquettes, and French painted enamels, a catalogue of the museum’s inventory of furniture will now fill this gap in the documentation of the Renaissance collections.

Contact: Dr Achim Stiegel, curator, Kunstgewerbemuseum

With the foundation of Königliche Porzellan-Manufaktur (KPM) Berlin in the year 1763, Friedrich the Great established one of the leading European porcelain manufacturers which soon produced sculptural artworks in porcelain that rivalled the best in Europe. About 200 porcelain figures are owned by the Kunstgewerbemuseum from the first century of production.

The project is dedicated to cataloguing the Berlin porcelain figures against the background of other contemporary sculpture. The aim is create an in-depth scholarly catalogue with essays on pertinent topics. It will be complemented by an index of works that were lost to the museum, about 180 porcelain figures, which will serve as an important record of the rich holdings of the Kunstgewerbemuseum before the Second World War.

The project is due to finish in 2013 with the publication of the catalogue.

Contact: Dr Dorothee Heim
Founding: DFG

The Kunstgewerbemuseum owns a rich and comprehensive collection of glassware from the 19th century that has been kept in storage and little researched to date. Around 300 glasses demonstrate the different techniques used to finish and decorate glass over the course of a century. At the time, the latest developments from the glass workshops were presented at industry and world expositions.

An interesting aspect in this context is the museum’s acquisitions policy. In the early years, it was supported by the Prussian Ministry of Trade but also had its own budget for purchasing objects at the world’s fairs. The publication will complement the existing catalogue Glas der Moderne (1880–1930) (Modern Glass, 1880–1930).

Contact: Dr Susanne Netzer, Chief Custodian, Kunstgewerbemuseum

The Kunstgewerbemuseum is carrying out work in research area B "Analysis & Synthesis" of the excellence cluster’s project "Origins and Genealogy". The study investigates the relativity of natural and artificial forms. The structural appearance of forms can be seen as the effect of the different processes that shape them. Research into the origins and genealogy of form aims to describe how a form evolves, comparing both the shaping of artefacts and the ontogenesis of organisms. The Kunstgewerbemuseum’s work focuses on the description and analysis of vegetal forms in jewellery and construction, and their development in Gothic, Jugendstil and "green design" and explores the ideological, aesthetic and functional significance of biological models. An exhibition based on the research with the title "Form and Structure in Nature and Design" is planned.

Contact: Prof. Dr Sabine Thümmler, Director, Kunstgewerbemuseum