Brachiosaurus brancai as an Icon of Politics, Science, and Popular Culture
September 6-7, 2018: International Workshop "Politics of Natural History. How to Decolonize the Natural History Museum?" flyer_politics_of_natural_history_web2.pdf
For almost eighty years now, one of the world’s most prominent scientific objects has been towering over the Berlin museum scene: the skeleton of Brachiosaurus brancai, which has been on display in the Museum’s atrium since 1937, was excavated from 1909 onwards in colonial German East Africa – present-day Tanzania – by palaeontologists from the Berlin Museum für Naturkunde. The finds bear eloquent witness to the Jurassic period and remain one of the world’s most important palaeontological specimens. As museum objects, they also attest to the chequered history of the twentieth century. Discovered during the colonial era of the German Empire, they were prepared and subjected to its earliest scientific analysis under the Weimar Republic, presented to the public during the Nazi era, placed into storage in the Museum’s basement in 1943 for safekeeping, returned to public view in 1953 in the then-divided city, and finally re-analyzed and reassembled in 2007 on the basis of the latest scientific findings and reconstruction techniques. Thus Brachiosaurus brancai is an object of global significance that spans geological eras, political entities, nations, cultures, and academic disciplines.
The project focuses on the role of Brachiosaurus brancai as an icon of politics, science, and popular culture in the hundred years from its excavation to the present day. Three closely linked sub-projects are devoted to studying the political, scientific, and museum history as well as the function and presentation of those world-famous palaeontological finds.