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Together against discrimination, prejudice and racism

The Museum für Naturkunde Berlin is an excellent research institute of the Leibniz Association. We are committed to high quality and standards in our work. As an open, integrated research museum it is essential to our understanding of our role and remit that we address issues of and assume social responsibility.

The Museum für Naturkunde Berlin stands for the diversity of people and nature.

We want to be a diverse, multifaceted community in which people feel welcome, regardless of where they come from, their ethnicity and nationality, their religion, what they stand for politically and in relation to trade unions, their age, any disability they may have, their gender identity or sexual orientation; a community in which EVERYONE has the opportunity to develop and realize their professional ambitions.

We resolutely and emphatically distance ourselves from racist ideas; they are not compatible with an open, dynamic, evolutionary worldview. The division of humanity into "races" has led to the oppression, persecution, enslavement and murder of millions upon millions of people. Even today the term "race" is still widely used in connection with human groups. "There is, however, no biological justification for this and in fact it never existed", the authors of the Jena Declaration state [*1], and further: "The concept of race is the result of racism and not its precondition". We therefore state emphatically: There are no human races - the theories and ideas behind the concept of human race have been scientifically refuted. We condemn all forms of discrimination and racism and all acts which lead to the oppression of human beings.

The Black Lives Matter movement has made it even more clear how important it is to reflect about what is happening around the world. We are aware of the fact that People of Color, but also other marginalised groups, are also underrepresented in all areas of science in Germany [*2]. It is obvious that the Museum für Naturkunde Berlin must also learn lessons from this. We will act in light of this knowledge.

The global socio-ecological challenges such as the extinction crisis, climate change or inequality that humanity is facing here and now can only be addressed, let alone solved, if we value and incorporate diversity in our science, in our working environment and in our communities.

We live in an unequal world and society. The greater the inequality, the more unstable society becomes. Inequality is one of the causes of vulnerability within society. Quite frequently – but not exclusively – inequality intersects with systemic racial prejudice and marginalization of certain groups. Inequality must be addressed if we are to overcome the crises we face. There is only one Earth, there is only one humanity!

As a natural history museum, we are also aware that museums have contributed to or benefitted from this inequality, and how they have done so. Museums like ours have perpetuated structural racism through questionable collecting practices, misguided portrayals of and by denying People of Color a chance to decide how their stories are told. We have begun to address this legacy and make necessary changes. We acknowledge that we have a long way to go.

In 2012 we started a new, and probably still unique, research centre Humanities of Nature, as we are aware that we must investigate and critically reflect the history of our collection, our science and our museum. Some specimens in our research collection, such as the Tendaguru dinosaurs, are interlinked with Germany’s colonial history. The reappraisal of the Tendaguru expedition [*3] through our team and external colleagues shows how valuable and essential this research work is for our goal One World - One Collection [*4]. Therefore, we are continuing with such critical reappraisal and research. In light of this knowledge, we develop new global partnerships and strengthen international cooperation.

We will raise our awareness on an institutional and personal level of the still deeply rooted systemic inequality and extant racism that exists in science. We will continue to strengthen our resolve and efforts towards more diversity and broad and active participation in science.

We want to ensure that every person working at the Museum für Naturkunde Berlin, or visiting the Museum, feels welcome, heard and supported. We attach great importance to being a safe and inclusive institution where a culture of cooperation is alive and which is attractive to people from all over the world.  

In autumn 2020 we will begin our strategy process to outline the path our museum will take until 2030. In this process we will design, outline and plan our future as an integrated and open research museum: scientific, relevant, reflective, diverse, global, inviting and open.

In this process, we will all together once again reflect on our values and our actions according to the principles outlined here. We will use the strategy process to build and promote a strong and diverse community for a sustainably resilient, reflective, innovative, future-oriented Museum für Naturkunde Berlin.

Therefore we will ask ourselves the following questions:  

  • How well are the voices of the different people within the museum heard and how can this be improved?  
  • How can we promote and maintain diversity in our institution, and how can we best support and encourage the different people working in the museum or visiting the museum?  
  • How can we make our staff, management, committees and working groups a broader representation of a diverse community?  
  • How can we become even more relevant to EVERYONE in Germany and around the world?

During this strategy process we will involve all museum staff, external friends and other stakeholders to help us develop specific measures and approaches to increase the diversity of our staff and scholars and to create a safe and welcoming environment for all our staff, volunteers and visitors.

We will continue the historical reappraisal of our collection in the context of our Zukunftsplan and its associated collection development and digitization. We will continue to critically reflect on our role in the past, present and future.

 Professor Johannes Vogel, Ph.D.        Stephan Junker
 Director General                                   Managing Director

Museum für Naturkunde Berlin, Leibniz-Institut für Evolutions- und Biodiversitätsforschung (Berlin)

*1 Fischer, M.S. et al. (2019): Jenaer Erklärung – Das Konzept der Rasse ist das Ergebnis von Rassismus und nicht dessen Voraussetzung. Biologie in unserer Zeit 49, 399-402. DOI: 10.1002/biuz.201970606.

*2 Editorial board (2020). Why Black lives matter in science. Nature Methods 17, 645 (2020). DOI: 10.1038/s41592-020-0908-7.

*3 Ina Heumann, Holger Stoecker und Mareike Vennen (2018). Dinosaurierfragmente. Zur Geschichte der Tendaguru-Expedition und ihrer Objekte, 1906 – 2018. 311 Seiten. Wallstein Verlag GmbH 2018, ISBN 978-3-8353-3253-9.

*4 Für ein aktuelles Beispiel für unseren offenen Informations – und Forschungsansatz – auch an diesen Dinosauriern - siehe: Díez Díaz et al. (2020) The Tail of the Late Jurassic Sauropod Giraffatitan brancai: Digital Reconstruction of Its Epaxial and Hypaxial Musculature, and Implications for Tail Biomechanics. DOI: 10.3389/feart.2020.00160. Für die assoziierten offenen Daten siehe: Díez Díaz et al. (2020). Digital files and supplementary information on the musculoskeletal reconstruction of the tail of the sauropod dinosaur Giraffatitan brancai [Dataset]. Data Publisher: Museum für Naturkunde Berlin (MfN) - Leibniz Institute for Evolution and Biodiversity Science. DOI: 10.7479/xm1h-5806.