Kunstgeschichtliches Seminar

Exhibiting Knowledge / Knowledge in Exhibitions. An Epistemic History of Exhibitions in the Second Half of the 20th Century – Summary

Exhibitions are spaces where society absorbs, negotiates, changes, and mediates current and past knowledge. They are interpretative institutions creating meaningful reference points. They serve to affirm cultural and social categorises and how societies perceive themselves. Thus, they play a decisive role in the process of generating and negotiating knowledge in knowledge-based societies.

The planned Research Training Group will examine the interdependent field on which knowledge and exhibitions met in the second half of the 20th century. It will use seven case studies to analyse this relationship based on history of knowledge approaches. What kinds of knowledge, already circulating in academic and social discourses, found its way into an exhibition? Who are the people possessing and mediating knowledge? How do exhibitions explain and interpret this knowledge? How do they translate knowledge into spatial object ar- rangements? What are the selection processes and how is knowledge changed in these pro- cesses?
We assume that exhibitions are the results of multi-layered negotiation processes visible for a short period of time. This involves a wide range of visible and invisible actors and is characterized by a multitude of explicit and implicit contexts. Hence, in addition to the common study of written and pictorial sources that originated from the conception, implementation and reception of exhibitions, a comprehensive analysis of the interdependencies between knowledge and exhibitions needs to focus also on implicit and tacit knowledge, which is generally not recorded in writing. Consequently, the seven doctoral students will spend a year of their total four-year funding phase at a cooperating museum in order to understand the com- plexities at work in preparing exhibitions and also the effects of the exhibitions’ impact. During this hands-on phase they cooperate in preparation of an exhibition and by doing so gain another perspective on the historical material they work with.

The combination of theory and practice in the curriculum safeguards that the seven doctoral students pursue an extended research approach. At the same time, the practical year ena- bles them to gather skills and experiences during their qualification phase and to establish networks important for their future academic careers, but in particular their careers outside of universities.
The program will also further develop and expand the networks of non-university institutions of knowledge transfer and structured doctoral education by sustaining the contacts of doc- toral students established within the framework of the Research Training Group.