A pioneering mutual learning and knowledge-exchange program for African and European museum professionals, TheMuseumsLab, starts in May 2021. The project brings together a wide range of skills and competencies. Museums, academic and cultural institutions have come together to foster a common approach and mutual learning between Africa and Europe. The initiative is an important step towards Germany’s International Museum Agency.
A broad partnership has come together for TheMuseumsLab: The German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD), the Museum für Naturkunde, Berlin (Leibniz Institute), and the Master Program in Museum Management and Communication at the University of Applied Sciences (HTW) Berlin and in close cooperation with the African consultancy group, The Advisors. These partners represent a much broader consortium of dozens of museums and art spaces, a high number of outstanding African and European experts and several cultural institutions, including the Kulturstiftung der Länder (KSL) und Kulturstiftung des Bundes (KSB), Goethe-Institut and Institut für Auslandsbeziehungen (ifa). TheMuseumsLab is funded by the German Federal Foreign Office (AA) in close cooperation with the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) as well as the German Minister of State for Culture and the Media (BKM).
TheMuseumsLab aims at developing a community of practice engaging museum professionals from more than 10 African countries and Germany. Numerous panellists and lecturers from many African countries, Germany and Europe will share their expertise and perspectives on a wide range of topics. TheMuseumsLab wants to become a platform to enable joint learning, exchange and continuous education, empowering individuals and institutions in Africa and Germany. The aim is also to establish deep and lasting networks for future leaders in the sector. It offers academic credits as well as fostering new thinking and new practices of cooperation for museums and art spaces in Europe and Africa.
The pilot in 2021 encompasses two phases: Phase one is conducted online. Virtual discussion panels are planned to take place from May to July 2021. This is a unique opportunity for internationally active African and German thought leaders, academics, and practitioners, curators, architects and artists, such as Pamela Dube, Inyani Simala, Kwadwo Opoku-Agyemang, Félix Ayoh’Omidire, Johannes Vogel, Nanette Snoep, Barbara Plankensteiner, Kofi Yakpo or Luyanda Mpahlwa to come together, debate concepts, share ideas and build new connections.
In OctoberNovember 2021, a practice phase, with events in Berlin and a three-week placement of fellows at leading German museums. The uptake of this exciting offer has been very encouraging: So far 25 executives from more than ten African countries, as well as 20 executives from ten German museums will take part in the pilot. In the following years, the programme will be expanded further.
Johannes Vogel the director general of the Museum für Naturkunde, Berlin the executive partner of the TheMuseumsLab, states: “We are an open research museum within the Leibniz Association holding some 30 million natural history objects. We are actively conducting research with partners in over 60 countries, with a focus on western and eastern Africa. TheMuseumsLab is a unique opportunity to develop and empower networks and partnerships. It is a new and probably unique venture, strengthening training opportunities and mutual learning for young museum professionals and future leaders in Africa and Germany. As the former German National Natural History Museum we are aware of our responsibilities andwant to contribute in an appropriate, forward looking and lasting manner."