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A Window onto Nature and Art

A Historical-Critical Assessment of the Brandenburg-Prussian Kunstkammer

The Kunstkammer, which was once housed in the Berlin Palace, was the origin of the Berlin museum landscape. The collection, which was founded in the 16th century and whose lifespan stretched well into the 19th, brought together objects from nature, the arts and sciences. Today, many of the objects previously part of the Kunstkammer are now distributed amongst a number of Berlin’s museums. This DFG (Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft) research project – which involves the collaboration of the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin with the Humboldt Universität zu Berlin and the Museum für Naturkunde Berlin – had the aim of exploring this collection and its objects’ passage to the museums that currently house them.

The history of the Berlin Kunstkammer was established on the basis of object biographies. How did the objects end up in a particular collection? In what contexts did they exist before becoming part of the Berlin Kunstkammer? How were they continuously repositioned in new taxonomic, narrative, spatial, curatorial and user-based contexts within the collection? How were they allocated to the museums that began to emerge in the 19th century? And what meanings were assigned them during those processes?

The project findings have been made available in various formats. As part of the event series WEITWINKEL – Global Collection Perspectives, an exhibition intervention, Objects on the Move, was created and is now also available as a virtual exhibition.

In December 2022, a comprehensive book on the topic was published: Die Berliner Kunstkammer: Sammlungsgeschichte in Objektbiographien vom 16. bis 21. Jahrhundert. Edited by Marcus Becker, Eva Dolezel, Meike Knittel, Diana Stört, and Sarah Wagner for the Humboldt-Univerisität zu Berlin, Museum für Naturkunde Berlin. Petersberg, 2022.

The online platform was also launched in December 2022.

Cooperation Partners: Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin (Hermann von Helmholtz-Zentrum für Kulturtechnik), the Museum für Naturkunde Berlin (Humanities of Nature)
Project Funding: German Research Foundation (DFG)
Investigative Team: Prof. Dr Michael Eissenhauer (project management), Dr Angela Fischel (project coordination), Dr Eva Dolezel (research associate), Annika Thielen (student research assistant)
Duration: November 2018 to December 2022