Back to top

Public Engagement with Science

Back to top

Science Communication in Theory and Practice

Research museums are places of education, teaching and knowledge transfer, as well as public scientific discourse. In what way can a natural history research museum make this a stimulating task and do justice to its role as a public discussion forum at the interface of science, politics and society? Science Programme 4 is concerned with the question how interaction between members of the scientific community and other stakeholders works, how interaction between stakeholders shapes ideas about nature and thus the relationship between human beings, nature and culture. Finally, what was the particular role research museums had in the process in the past, what is it now and what will it be in the future? 

Overview of Topics

  • What are the historic, cultural and political constellations, structures and power systems in which research museums in general and the Museum für Naturkunde Berlin operates?
  • How do modern natural history research museums perceive their own role and how does this perception shape their practical actions and their participation in international debates on what the museums can achieve in a society?
  • How to convey scientific content to a wide range of target audiences? How to develop such content in cooperation and communication with different stakeholders in society?
  • Which knowledge transfer tasks are part of the primary functions of the Museum für Naturkunde Berlin (primary knowledge transfer), and how does the transfer of scientific methods and insights to the public at large work?
  • How can other fields of the Museum’s work be included in knowledge transfer, looking at the scientific, structural, procedural and ethical implications (secondary knowledge transfer)?
  • What role do integration and participation play in the overall cognitive process?

Knowledge transfer and exhibitions

The Museum für Naturkunde Berlin’s exhibitions, educational programmes and an approach to public engagement are regarded internationally as state of the art. Colleagues from all over the world consult the Museum when developing their programmes and planning their own exhibitions. The concept of authentic communication – where in-house scientists draw on their research fields and expertise, curators and taxidermists connect this to the museum’s collection, and a team of designers and planners transform the information into exhibitions and media – has proved a winning formula.

The department aim to create an range of innovative, targeted programmes designed to engage the public with science, build long-term visitor relationships and unleash visitor potential. To do this, one of the department’s ongoing tasks is to prepare and present research findings and the museum’s collections in a way that promotes dialogue between society, scientists and policy-makers.

Uwe Moldrzyk


The Education group at the Museum für Naturkunde uses innovative teaching and learning approaches to allow museum visitors to participate in science, research and culture and to raise their awareness of issues such as environmental stewardship and biodiversity conservation. Through our diverse programme of events, which includes guided tours, microscope workshops, excursions, programmes for the visually impaired, evening lectures and projects at the interface between art and science, the Museum für Naturkunde is the ideal place for engaging the public in science and promoting lifelong learning. We work closely with partners in the fields of education, natural history and art to develop new educational programmes and materials. In addition to schools, nurseries, museums, research institutes, adult education centres and numerous other places of learning, the universities are among the department’s most important partners. The education team is also responsible for dealing with booking enquiries, providing on-site visitor facilities (such as cash register, cloakroom and security), visitor services (including audio and written museum guides, the website and educational brochures) and serving as visitor guides. The department supervises the training of placement students, volunteers and young people doing their Voluntary Ecological Year, a gap year programme in Germany. Other priorities include research into education and communication, the establishment of regional, national and international educational networks as well as university teaching and research.

Further Information

Astrid Faber

WiG - Science in Society

The research of Science in Society area focuses on the interaction between science and society. Various initiatives bring together the expertise of social and political scientists at the Museum.

Policy consulting, citizen science, collaborative work and biodiversity research are all areas in which a host of participation processes are moderated as well as reflected upon and researched. WiG thus provides a framework in which citizen science, discourse and reflection at the interface of science and policy-making can be fostered and coordinated. The Department collaborates closely with many stakeholders inside and outside the Museum für Naturkunde Berlin.

Further Information

Dr. Katrin Vohland

PAN - Perspectives on Nature

PAN is unusual: a humanities department at the Museum für Naturkunde, Berlin. PAN focuses on the Museum and its collections by dedicating itself to cultural, scientific and artistic investigation. Our objective is to open new perspectives on how nature is perceived. PAN is an interdisciplinary research department. It spans various fields of interest within and beyond the Museum. Through its novel approach, PAN encourages discussion, questioning and forward thinking. PAN builds on already existing historical research that has a long tradition at the Museum. It initiates new research projects in cooperation with partners from the humanities and the arts. It thus fosters the Museum’s reputation as a distinguished interdisciplinary research centre. PAN promotes critical self-reflection and interdisciplinary thinking. It looks at past and present approaches to the collection and at the scientific investigation of nature. PAN analyses social, political, cultural and historical contexts and how these have shaped the perception and presentation of “nature”. By doing so, we want to better understand the evolution and the development of natural-history disciplines throughout the Museum’s history. PAN develops new forms of communication with the public. It establishes interdisciplinary debate on natural history museums in the 21st century.

Further information

Anita Hermannstädter and Dr. Ina Heumann


Departement of Historical Research

The Department of Historical Research contains historic picture and document collections and is one of the most significant archives on the history of natural sciences worldwide, with a focus on biology. Closely linked to the scientific collections of the Museum für Naturkunde, the department holds documents covering over 200 years of national and international science history. The letters, administrative documents, reports, lists of items, expedition logs and journals are complemented by bequests, teaching models, maps, drawings, photos and a comprehensive collection of historic portraits.

The Department of historical research is a collection for research and has the mission to view the vast documentation of an estimated 30 million items stored in the Museum, index it, research it and make it available for further research. Correspondences, journals or itemised collection lists that belonged to explorers and collectors of the 19th century are of special interest, as these documents are often the only existing proof of origin of collection items on which modern biodiversity research is based. The collections provide not only globally accessible research infrastructure for historical and scientific research, but they are also gaining importance as a resource for other cultural and artistic purposes.

Dr. Sabine Hackethal


Due to construction measures at the Museum für Naturkunde Berlin, the collections are currently only accessible to a limited extent. More information can be found here.