Stuttgart/Berlin, 14 September 2020 – Numerous international museum experts from Benin, Bolivia, China, France, India, Russia, South Africa, USA and the United Kingdom, among others, accepted the invitation of the ifa (Institut für Auslandsbeziehungen) to the 2nd Martin Roth Symposium. For five days experts in theory and practice discussed online and on site at the Museum für Naturkunde in Berlin about the future of museums in between democracy, power, architecture and entertainment. The symposium was held for the first time in cooperation with re:publica.
In his opening speech, Federal President Frank-Walter Steinmeier said: 'More than ever, we need international cooperation […]. For no single challenge of the 21st century can still be resolved solely with the resources of the nation-state'.
ifa-president Ulrich Raulff sees this as a great opportunity for foreign cultural and education policy and the work of the institute: 'Digitalisation, decolonisation and diversity are the major issues facing societies worldwide. This debate will not stop at the museum. And it could be that it will fundamentally change and enrich the long history of this old institution'.
In the first panel on Monday, 7 September, Kavita Singh, Philip Tinari, Clémentine Déliss, Zelfira Tregulova and Alain Bieber discussed the topic 'Museums and Futures' online. Kavita Singh, Professor of Art History and Dean of the Jawaharlal Nehru University in Delhi, emphasised: '…that we don't have the same past and therefore we don't have the same future. And despite all of our interconnections […] context matters. And even if it looks like we're building the same kind of institutions or we are having similar viewing experiences, what that institutions means or what that viewing experience is, is contextually determined. And in different places, museums, democracy and the future can be very different things.'
What function do public and private museums have in society? What is their role as a place for negotiating sovereign interpretations? These questions were addressed in the 2nd panel 'Museums and Power' by Elvira Espejo Ayca, Julia Grosse, Yvette Mutumba, Rooksana Omar, Nico Daswani, Hartmut Dorgerloh, Gus Casely-Hayford and Benita von Maltzahn. Elvira Espejo Ayca, director of the National Museum of Ethnography and Folklore (MUSEF) in La Paz, Bolivia, explained: 'The construction of understanding the operation chain has automatically questioned us in the museum, like, how the collections are organised. Often the collections are organised solely according to the criteria of conservation and preservation. And in terms of conservation and preservation, one can state that we only care and research about beauty.'
In the 3rd panel Robin Reardon, Tim Reeve, Manouchehr Shamsrizi, Marie Cecile Zinsou, Pi Li and Raphaël de Courville discussed on the subject of 'Museums and Entertainment' and new trends in the digital age in the field of entertainment. Tim Reeve, Deputy Director and Managing Director of the Victoria and Albert Museum, noted that: 'The context for any discussion about the role of museums in the middle of the 21st century […] has […] been transformed. Discussions and debates that were in the tentative early stages before lockdown, are now being accelerated. Calls for change to institutional strategy, values and culture have become more impassioned.'
The Architect Sir David Chipperfield demanded in the 4th panel on the topic 'Museums and Architecture': 'Museums are going to have to do what we all must do: Make more from what we have, be more flexible and more resourceful. […] Build less, build lighter, reuse refit and adapt. Be more innovative with the spaces and buildings you have, be more rooted in the immediate context and society around you and expand your visions as far as possible, but take care about enlarging your real estate.' Further keynote speeches were given by Bice Curiger, Bill Sherman, Edwin Heathcote, Louisa Hutton, David Adjaye and Pinar Yoldas.
In the last panel 'Museums and Failure' on 11 September, Małgorzata Ludwisiak, Lucy Darwin, Inés de Castro, Michael Moriarty and Johannes Vogel discussed on site at the Museum für Naturkunde Berlin. Inés de Castro, director of the Linden-Museum Stuttgart, raised the question: 'One might ask whether an ethnological museum still has a justification for our modern society, which is characterised by diversity and globalisation. Can this constructional failure with its focus on non-European countries be overcome and how can this be done with the existing collections?'
The digital programme was supplemented by various analogue expert workshops on site, in which the participants incorporated the results of previous discussions.
Ronald Grätz, Secretary General of the ifa, expressed confidence about the successful implementation of the digital concept: 'As places of political discourse, as places of reappraisal and learning, museums shape a common social future, worldwide. At this year's Martin Roth Symposium, the opportunities that lie in digital offerings were clearly and excellently made use of.'
The Martin Roth Symposium
In honour of Martin Roth (1955-2017), one of Germany's most innovative museum directors and cultural policy makers as well as the former president of ifa, experts from the cultural, academic, artistic, and political sectors gather biennially at the Martin Roth Symposium. Inspired by Roth's own progressive convictions, they come together to develop new ideas and visions for the future. The first symposium entitled 'What Can Culture Do?' took place in Berlin in 2018.
The concept of the Martin Roth Symposium 2020 was developed in cooperation with an international committee and the re:publica. Members of the committee are Prof. Dr. Marion Ackermann (Dresden State Art Collections), Nico Daswani (World Economic Forum), Prof. Dr. Kurt Forster, Dr. Andreas Görgen (German Federal Foreign Office), Ronald Grätz (Institut für Auslandsbeziehungen), Benita von Maltzahn (Volkswagen Group), Prof. Dr. Dr. h.c. Ulrich Raulff (Institut für Auslandsbeziehungen), Dr. Harriet Roth, Prof. Dr. Bill Sherman (University of London), Dr. Ellen Strittmatter (Institut für Auslandsbeziehungen), Prof. Dr. Johannes Vogel (Museum für Naturkunde Berlin) and Prof. Dr. Mariët Westermann (New York University Abu Dhabi).
This year's symposium is hosted by ifa (Institut für Auslandsbeziehungen) in cooperation with re:publica and with Museum für Naturkunde Berlin; funded by the Federal Foreign Office.
More information is available at www.ifa.de/mars
Politycki & Partner, Literature and Press Agency
Birgit Politycki, Tel: +49 (0)40-430-9315-12, bp(at)politycki-partner.de
ifa (Institut für Auslandsbeziehungen)
Miriam Kahrmann, Tel: +49 (0)151-2645-5509, presse(at)ifa.de
Rebecca Krum, Tel: +49 (0)171-576-1076, rebecca.krum(at)re-publica.com
About ifa (Institut für Auslandsbeziehungen)
ifa (Institut für Auslandsbeziehungen) is Germany's oldest intermediary organisation for international cultural relations. Since 1917 it has been promoting a peaceful and enriching coexistence between people and cultures worldwide. ifa supports artistic and cultural exchange in exhibition, dialogue, and conference programmes, and it acts as a centre of excellence for international cultural and educational policy. It is part of a global network and relies on sustainable, long-term partnerships.
It is supported by the Federal Foreign Office of the Federal Republic of Germany, the state of Baden-Württemberg and its capital Stuttgart. www.ifa.de
re:publica Berlin is Europe's largest internet and digital society conference. At re:publica participants come together to discuss current issues and represent a cross-section of (digital) society, which include professionals from economics, politics, business, as well as bloggers, activists and artists. At the end of 2018, re:publica celebrated its Africa debut in Ghana's capital, Accra with more than 2,000 participants. 2018-2019 republica GmbH was a strategic partner of 'Deutschlandjahr USA', for which it organised the Sequencer Tour with five events in the United States. On 7 May 2020, re:publica took place for the first time as #rpREMOTE in a free one-day online conference at the online platform re-publica.tv. www.re-publica.com