Amazonia Future Lab Connect – Comprehend – Communicate

The things stored in the deposit cabinets of ethnological museums and the stacks of libraries and archives are more than silent witnesses of appropriation, circulation and reinterpretation. In each of them, relationships between people, plants, ancestors, and other beings as well as territories materialize. Even in their momentary status as objects of collecting institutions, they have the potential to connect different life-worlds, forms of knowledge, and knowledge practices, and thereby to return to life itself – a life that transcends the walls of collecting institutions. This requires the development of appropriate formats and tools. The project “Connect – Comprehend – Communicate. Amazonia as a future laboratory” (German: “Vernetzen – Verstehen – Vermitteln. Amazonien als Zukunftslabor”) is a pilot project based on collection objects, aiming to overcome disciplinary, institutional and spatial boundaries and to create digital and analog spaces of networking, mutual understanding and mediation.


2020 - 2023


In close cooperation between Brazilian and German partners, digital tools are being developed within the framework of the project. From different perspectives, they bundle and connect information on collection objects. A central challenge is to convey the diverse approaches in their complexity. In this way, historically grown separations between collection institutions are to be overcome. Disciplinary and institutional logics of organization and classification are taken into account as well as indigenous knowledge orders and practices. Historical ethnographic and botanical collections from the Brazilian Amazon region and cultural-historical collections for their contextualization (including field diaries, photographs, maps, sound recordings, films, secondary literature) serve as case studies. These artifacts, plants, and documents have been collected over the last 200 years and stored, classified, conserved, restored, and researched in the Ethnological Museum, the Botanical Museum and Botanical Garden, and the Ibero-American Institute. Only a part of these extensive collections have been explored in greater depth and are available digitally. So far, the collections have not yet been connected across institutions and countries.

The general aim of the project is to use the potential of digital formats and tools to communicate, exchange, network and jointly create new knowledge from different perspectives, knowledge practices and social contexts. The connected knowledge will be publicly accessible in its processuality, via interactive formats of exploration and participation. The tools created will subsequently be made freely available and can thus be used or further developed by other communities and institutions that are engaged in the field of participatory cultural education.

Project Partners

Project management: Dr. Andrea Scholz (Ethnological Museum/SMB of the SPK)
SPK-internal partners: Prof. Dr. Barbara Göbel, Ibero-American Institute (SPK); Dr. Patricia Rahemipour, Institute for Museum Research (SMB of the SPK)
Additional partners: Prof. Dr. Thomas Borsch, Botanical Garden and Botanical Museum (Freie Universität Berlin), Berlin; Dr. Thiago da Costa Oliveira (Alexander von Humboldt Foundation Postdoctoral Fellow at the Ethnological Museum Berlin); Prof. Dr. Carlos Fausto, Museu Nacional Rio de Janeiro (Universidade Federal de Rio de Janeiro), Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.


Funded by the Digital Culture Programme of the German Federal Cultural Foundation

Publications Associated Publications

Infrastructure as digital tools and knowledge practices: Connecting the Ethnologisches Museum Berlin with Amazonian Indigenous Communities

— Digitalisierung ethnologischer Sammlungen: Perspektiven aus Theorie und Praxis, 2021
This paper shares experiences with digital tools in the context of ethnological collections and discusses the challenges of accommodating different knowledge practices in collaboration with heritage communities. Departing from the Sharing Knowledge project (2014-2020), which took place in the Ethnologisches Museum (Staatliche Museen zu Berlin/ Stiftung Preußischer Kulturbesitz), the chapter argues that evaluating the weight of infrastructural inertia and exploring infrastructures' operations – i.e., decoding the master narratives and exclusion mechanisms behind museum knowledge practices – are crucial steps to develop tools and tactics to circumvent and undermine this very inertia. While the first part of the paper pays critical attention to this case study, the second proposes new methodologies to devise infrastructures that embrace relationality and plurality. 
Fidel Thomet
Nadia Zeissig
Marian Dörk
Andrea Scholz
Thiago da Costa Oliveira
Giacomo Nanni
et al.

2020 - 2023