In recent years, the Federal Cultural Foundation has initiated a series of programmes designed to kickstart processes of change in museums. Building on the funding measures developed for the Global Museum (since 2014) and the Humboldt Lab Dahlem (2012 – 2015) funding projects, this new initiative will continue supporting the efforts of selected museums to modernise their collections and adopt a global orientation.

The Initiative for Ethnological Collections include the Museum am Rothenbaum Kulturen und Künste der Welt (MARKK), the GRASSI Museum in Leipzig and the Linden-Museum in Stuttgart, which are publicly funded and possess collections of outstanding cultural-historical value. The three museums have either redesigned their permanent exhibitions on Africa from the “ground up” or are working on redesigning them. In the future, the museums will strike out in new directions – pursuing collaboration with African countries, conducting provenance research, experimenting with new forms of museum presentation, and actively engaging with their city communities. For this purpose, each of the three ethnological museums will receive 1 million euros for a period of up to four years.

In view of the upcoming opening of the Humboldt Forum in Berlin in 2020, we can expect that the challenges facing ethnological collections will remain the focus of lively debate in Germany in the coming years. None of the tasks mentioned above can be accomplished quickly or easily. The systematic development and implementation of colonial-era provenance research alone will be a Herculean effort which museums will have to tackle with additional resources – in particular, personnel resources. The issue of German colonial legacy, evoked by the history and presentation of ethnological collections, will almost certainly tie into debates about immigration society and the central task of ensuring the peaceful coexistence of people of different origins, languages, world views and religions. In this respect, the ethnological museums will address questions which extend far beyond the content of their collections.

The Federal Cultural Foundation has allocated a maximum of 3.3 million euros to fund the Initiative for Ethnological Collections from 2018 to 2022.

  • The following members belong to the Digital Fund jury:

    • Michael Eickhoff has served as the head dramaturge at Schauspiel Dortmund since the 2010/11 season. He has staged a number of performances and projects which explore the cross-over of performing arts, activism, digitality and journalism. He has taught at the Folkwang University of the Arts as a visiting lecturer since 2010 and has been involved with building the Academy for Theatre and Digitality since 2017/18.
    • Prof. Dr. Ellen Euler, was appointed professor for Open Access/Open Data at the FH Potsdam in July 2017. She studied law with specialisation in information rights. She earned her doctorate with a dissertation titled “Cultural Memory in the Age of Digital and Networked Media and Its Legal Consequences”. Ellen Euler served as the administrative director and deputy managing director during the creation of the German Digital Library.
    • Prof. Dr. Markus Hilgert, secretary general of the Cultural Foundation of German States, served as director of the Vorderasiatisches Museum (Museum of the Ancient Near East) at the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin until 2017 where he created and developed the project “museum4punkt0 – Digital Strategies for the Museum of the Future”. Markus Hilgert is an honorary professor at the universities of Heidelberg, Marburg and Berlin.
    • Sabine Himmelsbach has served as director of the Haus der elektronischen Künste (HeK) in Basel since March 2012. From 1999 to 2005 Himmelsbach was the director of the exhibitions department at the ZKM | Center for Art and Media Karlsruhe where she curated numerous exhibitions and accompanying programmes on media art-related topics. From 2005 to 2011 Sabine Himmelsbach was the director of the Edith-Russ-Haus for Media Art in Oldenburg.
    • Tobias Rempe is the co-founder and managing director (since 2008) of the chamber orchestra Ensemble Resonanz in Hamburg where he is also responsible for the performance venue “resonanzraum”. Tobias Rempe is currently developing a “digital resonanzraum” in which the Ensemble Resonanz can perform using a diverse array of digital formats and explore the artistic possibilities of a digital space for concert works specifically composed for this venue.
  • The jury of the Digital Fund recommended funding for 15 projects totalling 13.18 million euros. The Board of Trustees confirmed the recommendations at its meeting on 9 December 2019. Thirty-six cultural institutions nationwide are participating in the selected projects, including 28 museums, five theatres, two opera houses and one memorial site. Three projects are cooperating with international partners in Australia, Brazil and Sweden.

    • Badisches Staatstheater Karlsruhe and Ethnological Museum (Berliner Phonogramm-Archiv of the Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation (Stiftung Preußischer Kulturbesitz)) for the project “De-Linking Sounds. A Transcultural and Media Platform.” Funding amount: max. 880,000 euros
      In “De-Linking Sounds”, the Berliner Phonogramm-Archiv at the Ethnological Museum and the Badisches Staatstheater Karlsruhe will examine colonial perspectives and structures on the web and develop a digital platform, joint presentation formats and a series of artistic productions which feature multi-perspective and collaborative approaches.
    • Deichtorhallen Hamburg and Kampnagel Internationale Kulturfabrik for the project “Diversify the Code! Artistic Production and Institutional Structural Change in Digital Space.” Funding amount: max. 880,000 euros
      The joint project “Diversify the Code!” by Kampnagel and the Deichtorhallen Hamburg addresses the question of how digital technologies can be developed, presented and utilised for their artistic endeavours, and how they can be used to extensively reorganise the internal working and production structures at the institutions.
    • Deutsche Oper am Rhein Düsseldorf Duisburg and FFT Düsseldorf (Forum Freies Theater) for the project “The Digital Foyer. Rooms of Encounter in the Theatre of the Future”. Funding amount: max. 816,000 euros
      The Deutsche Oper am Rhein Düsseldorf Duisburg and FFT Düsseldorf plan to expand their foyers with digital services in the areas of education and communication. The goal is to permanently establish a “digital foyer” as a place of encounter for urban society.
    • DFF – German Film Institute & Film Museum (Frankfurt/Main) and the Australian Centre for the Moving Image – ACMI (Melbourne, Australia) for the project Constellations of Cinematic Knowledge // Constellation 2.0”. Funding amount: max. 840,000 euros
      The DFF (German Film Institute & Film Museum) in Frankfurt is cooperating with the ACMI – Australian Centre of the Moving Image Melbourne to drive innovation in the area of digital participation at the international level. The collaboration may include, e.g. developing digital programmes which allow visitors to view selected video features in the exhibition and access more extensive, related information in a site-specific media installation.
    • Ethnological Museum and Ibero-American Institute (Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation, Berlin), Botanical Garden, Botanical Museum, Berlin and Museu Nacional Rio De Janeiro (Brazil) for the project “Connecting-Understanding-Presenting. The Amazon as a Future Lab”. Funding amount: max. 779,800 euros
      The Ethnological Museum, the Ibero-American Institute, the Botanical Garden and Botanical Museum in Berlin are cooperating with the National Museum of Brazil, which was almost destroyed by fire in 2018. In this project, the partners will explore new ways to access their respective ethnological collections. The aim is to develop postcolonial research approaches and digital tools which integrate the perspectives and knowledge systems of indigenous experts from the start.
    • House of Brandenburg-Prussian History (Brandenburg Society for Culture and History) and Memorial and Museum Sachsenhausen (Brandenburg Memorials Foundation, Oranienburg) for the project Site-Specific Augmented Storytelling Lab. SPUR.lab”. Funding amount: max. 880,000 euros
      Jointly operated by three memorial sites and museums in Brandenburg, the “SPUR.lab” is a laboratory devoted to digitally presenting historical crimes, particularly those committed by the Nazi regime. It will also examine how digital presentation formats can preserve and take into account the authenticity of physical sites.
    • Jewish Museum of Frankfurt, Archaeological Museum of Frankfurt and the Künstlerhaus Mousonturm (Frankfurt/Main) for the project METAhub Frankfurt. Museums, Education, Theatre, Arts – Culture in Digital and Urban Space”. Funding amount: max. 1,040,000 euros.
      With this digital application developed by the Archaeological Museum and the Jewish Museum in Frankfurt, smartphone users can virtually explore original sites of Jewish urban history which no longer exist via augmented reality. The project will be accompanied by residencies for media artists at the Künstlerhaus Mousonturm who will develop new digital productions.
    • Komische Oper Berlin and Berliner Ensemble for the project Free Play! In Search of Digital Spaces of Experience”. Funding amount: max. 880,000 euros
      The Komische Oper Berlin and Berliner Ensemble have teamed up with digital experts to jointly develop artistic worlds, places of encounter, games and applications where the artistic genres of opera and drama will be digitally reinterpreted.
    • Kunsthalle Mannheim and Kunstmuseum Stuttgart for the project “From the Work to the Display. 32 Digitally Curated Rooms”. Funding amount: max. 880,000 euros
      With their project “From the Work to the Display” the Kunstmuseum Stuttgart and the Kunsthalle Mannheim want to develop 32 formats to innovatively present objects from their collections on digital displays. This experimental approach is based on the specific characteristics of individual works, e.g. their spatial dimensions, haptic quality or surface structure, to digitally render them as realistically as possible.
    • Ludwig Forum for International Art and Hartware Medien KunstVerein (HMKV, Dortmund) for the project “Training the Archive. Developing Algorithms for Recognising Patters in Big Data Searches”. Funding amount: max. 704,000 euros.
      “Training the Archive” aims to investigate the possibilities and risks of artificial intelligence (AI) with respect to artistic and curatorial practice. Together with international artists, curators and a digital partner, the Ludwig Forum for International Art in partnership with the HMKV Dortmund plan to create a functioning process based on a yet-to-be developed pattern recognition technology which can imitate and build on human search processes.
    • LWL Museum of Archaeology – Westphalian State Museum (Herne), German Mining Museum (Bochum) and LWL-Römermuseum (Haltern am See) for the project The Museum as a Co-Lab. Open the Black Box of Archaeology!”. Funding amount: max. 1,040,000 euros
      The three archaeological museums, the LWL Museum of Archaeology – Westphalian State Museum (Herne), German Mining Museum (Bochum) and LWL-Römermuseum are developing the project “Open the Black Box of Archaeology” to encourage greater visitor participation. The project organisers are developing applications with visitors and digital experts which present archaeological practice and research knowledge, e.g. on excavations, storage and material analysis.
    • Museum of Contemporary Art Siegen, Kestner Society (Hannover), Art and Culture in the HafenCity (Hamburg) and Marta Herford for the project “Open Worlds. Digital Tour through Spaces of Our Time”. Funding amount: max. 960,000 euros
      In “Open Worlds”, the four participating institutions of contemporary art – the Museum of Contemporary Art Siegen, Kestner Society (Hannover), Art and Culture in the HafenCity (Hamburg) and Marta Herford – are collaborating with artists and curators to develop a playful, digital tour and artistic displays in urban settings.
    • Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg, National Museum of Sweden (Stockholm) and Overseas Museum of Bremen for the project “NEO Collections. User-Centred. Exploratory. Digital Museum Collections in the 21st Century”. Funding amount: max. 959,000 euros
      With their joint project “Neo Collections” the Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg, National Museum of Sweden (Stockholm) and Overseas Museum of Bremen aim to present their digitalised collections both online and in the museum using applications which are designed to be more user-centred, exploratory and open.
    • NRW Forum Düsseldorf and Museum Ulm for the project “ Platform for Co-Curation and Co-Creation”. Funding amount: max. 760,000 euros
      The Museum Ulm and the NRW Forum Düsseldorf have launched the project “” to explore how digital methods can be used to promote greater democracy in the art world. A cross-institutional open platform will be created, with which curators, artists and institutions will be able to develop exhibitions in open digital dialogue with visitors.
    • ZKM | Center for Art and Media (Karlsruhe) and German Museum of Masterpieces of Science and Technology (Munich) for the project “The Intelligent Museum. An Artistic-Curatorial Field of Experimentation for Deep Learning and Visitor Participation”. Funding amount: max. 880,000 euros
      The ZKM | Center for Art and Media in Karlsruhe and the German Museum in Munich are developing a new AI-based exhibition system in cooperation with the Fraunhofer Institute of Optronics in Karlsruhe. Using machine vision and language recognition, the researchers will be able to directly analyse visitor behaviour and so doing immediately adapt the content and presentation of the exhibition to the interests and characteristics of the visitors.


Dr. Lutz Nitsche
Kulturstiftung des Bundes

Franckeplatz 2
06110 Halle (Saale)
Tel.: +49 (0)345 2997 104
Fax.: +49 (0)345 2997 333