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The Humboldt Forum

A short interview with Hermann Parzinger, President of Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation and one of the founding directors of the Humboldt Forum, on what visitors may expect beginning in 2019.

© dpa/Daniel Kalker - Berlin Humboldt-Forum

In May 2015, the Humboldt Forum celebrated its topping out. There is a great demand for tours of the construction site and curiosity about what lies ahead is evident. What message will the Forum convey?

With the building of the huge city palace in the centre of Berlin the question about its use as the Humboldt Forum naturally becomes more and more important. The founding directors have been working on a vision for the entire building since early 2016 and this autumn the first specific ideas will be aired. But it’s clear that the message will have to do with the inter-relations of world cultures, from the past into the present. The Humboldt Forum should offer people orienting knowledge because the world is changing faster and faster.

The Humboldt Forum will show exhibitions of non-European cultures. To what extent is it more than a sum of various collections?

The Humboldt Forum will present the collections of the Ethnological Museum and the Museum of Asian Art, but this should be seen in close interplay with the Museum Island. There we show the art and cultural heritage of Europe and the Middle East; in the Humboldt-Forum this survey is extended to include the cultures of Africa, Asia, Australia, Oceania and the Americas. In this way the Museum Island and the Humboldt Forum, which we see as a unity, will become a place where you can view and understand the whole world. The changing exhibitions at the Humboldt-Forum will also draw on the seemingly endless fund of all the collections of the Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation and make many phenomena comprehensible in a holistic manner.

Along with Horst Bredekamp and Neil MacGregor, you are one of the three founding directors of the Forum. How goes the collaboration?

It goes very smoothly, and it is very intense. We three complement each other well because, on the one hand, we’ve known each other very well for a long time and, on the other hand, come to this project with different personal background experience. The Humboldt Forum is about bringing together very different institutions such as museums, libraries, universities and city museums and combining them into a whole. This work should be looked upon as a never ending process. It’s therefore fairly obvious that the responsibility for this phase of the process should be carried by several pairs of shoulders.