Category: News

Reflections on my Methodology and Conclusions

Victoria Bishop Kendzia, Berlin, June 2020

I thought it might be helpful to future readers to share my impressions of an online lecture and discussion I was invited to give and moderate recently.

It was part of a class and the Frei Universität Berlin.  Most of the students were in public history, some in Jewish Studies. The instructor mentioned having come across Visitors sort of by accident and was happy to have done so.

She then assigned the final concluding chapter to her students.  This chapter is trying to find a way toward a more inclusive culture of memory: one that does not marginalize Berliners of non-German background and/or stigmatize Muslims in Germany, especially, as not belonging to the national community. The research situations exposed that they were all too often seen as not being part of the conversation on this topic were even cast as a threat to it, in the form of being the new (and only?) anti-Semites.

What she found most compelling in the book were two things:

  1. The grounded methodology in which I clearly position myself within the research.  I did and do not claim to be a disinterested “fly on the wall” when it comes to the collection of the material.  This transparency is key to bringing the readers into the museum and fostering empathy between them, myself, and most importantly, the participants in the study.  All too often in research, the methodological lie of being somehow completely unbiased and free of pre-existing ideas and assumptions is told in a misguided attempt to appear objective.  I argued that no one is ever not positioned.  It is, therefore, crucial to first be aware of this and then to reflect on how this might co-constitute the material one collects and the conclusions one draws.

    Only then, is the research truly transparent.  Objectivity, to the degree that it is possible, is achieved through systematic collection and analyses, which are then challenged and checked (not only with other scholars working on similar topics) but also, and arguably even more importantly, with the participants in the study itself.  This transparency, in turn, allows the readers to know where the research and researcher is coming from and judge the conclusions for themselves.

  2. Another point the instructor mentioned was that this book is about what actually happens on the ground in the museum, in the schools and beyond over time and focusses on understanding the situations as they occur.  This, in turn, exposes the complexity of visiting behaviours and the various interactions in and around the museum.

It is not accident, I believe, that the instructor chose the final chapter for her class.  It is here that everything comes together.  Indeed, the book has a gradual build up toward the most problematic issues that emerged during the research process.  I have kept it this way deliberately, as this is how I, myself, experienced it.  I very much wanted and want the readers to join me along this path from my first steps in the museum and contact in the schools to the difficulties encountered along the way to the critical, but not jaded, view I finally came to adopt.

The discussion with the students in this Frei Universität class was quite heartening as the main concern was how to mitigate against the mechanisms of exclusion made visible in the book.  I found this especially encouraging as it is very likely that students such as those who took part in this discussion make up the present and future carriers and narrators of this memory.

Victoria Bishop Kendzia is a teaching fellow at Humboldt University, Berlin. Her publications include “‘Jewish’ Ethnic Options in Germany between Attribution and Choice: Auto-Ethnographical Reflections at the Jewish Museum Berlin” in the Anthropological Journal of European Cultures. She completed her doctorate at Humboldt’s Institute of European Ethnology.

Identity and Political Education at the Jewish Museum Berlin
Victoria Bishop Kendzia

“Provides an inspiring approach at a time when generational and societal changes call for the emendation of well-established patterns of memory and remembrance.” • German Studies Review

As one of the most visited museums in Germany’s capital city, the Jewish Museum Berlin is a key site for understanding not only German-Jewish history, but also German identity in an era of unprecedented ethnic and religious diversity. Visitors to the House of Memory is an intimate exploration of how young Berliners experience the Museum. How do modern students relate to the museum’s evocative architecture, its cultural-political context, and its narrative of Jewish history? By accompanying a range of high school history students before, during, and after their visits to the museum, this book offers an illuminating exploration of political education, affect, remembrance, and belonging.


The Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History’s Virtual Tour

A Review by Diana E. Marsh

As of May 5, 2020, the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History’s (NMNH) virtual tour had been viewed by over one million online visitors. The 3D tour allows users to navigate through exhibit spaces, read texts, and view specimens. Users tap or click their way through the museums’ halls using virtual arrows along the floor of the galleries, or swipe to rotate up to 360° in one spot. They can also use a virtual floorplan to move into spaces of their choice.

Continue reading

Museums and Collections Series from Berghahn

We are pleased to announce new and forthcoming titles in our Museums and Collections series.

As houses of memory and sources of information about the world, museums function as a dynamic interface between past, present and future. Museum collections are increasingly being recognized as material archives of human creativity and as invaluable resources for interdisciplinary research. Museums provide powerful forums for the expression of ideas and are central to the production of public culture: they may inspire the imagination, generate heated emotions and express conflicting values in their material form and histories. This series explores the potential of museum collections to transform our knowledge of the world, and for exhibitions to influence the way in which we view and inhabit that world. It offers essential reading for those involved in all aspects of the museum sphere: curators, researchers, collectors, students and the visiting public.

Get 25% off all volumes featured in the series until the end of the year by entering the code MAC17 at checkout.

Related titles can be found on our website.

The Wende Museum Reopens!

The Wende Museum of the Cold War is an art museum, historical archive, and educational institution in Culver City, California. As of November 2017, the museum has reopened in a 1949 former national guard armory. To celebrate its reopening, we’ve compiled a list of Wende books below:


Berlin Divided City, 1945-1989

Edited by Philip Broadbent and Sabine Hake


The ‘Conservative Revolutionaries’

The Protestant and Catholic Churches in Germany after Radical Political Change in the 1990s

Thériault, B.


Bloom And Bust

Urban Landscapes In The East Since German Reunification

Edited by Gwyneth Cliver and Carrie Smith-Prei



East German Cinema 1946-1992

Edited by Seán Allan and John Sandford


Disenchantment With Market Economics

East Germans and Western Capitalism

Birgit Müller


From The Bonn To The Berlin Republic

Germany At The Twentieth Anniversary Of Unification

Edited by Jeffrey Anderson and Eric Langenbacher


Reconstructing Education

East German Schools After Unification

Rosalind M. O. Pritchard



Museum News: October 2016

Nixon museum makeover puts visitors in his shoes, via USA Today

Five Paintings Stolen in 2005 Return to Dutch Museum, via The New York Times

Prince’s Paisley Park to be turned into a permanent museum, via CNN

Qatar retrospective exhibits Iraqi artist Dia Azzawi, via Al Jazeera

Jamaica celebrates reggae legend Peter Tosh with new museum, via The Washington Post

176 original emoji will become part of the Museum of Modern Art’s collection, via The Verge

Art exhibit presents traditional Native American story, via The Washington Times

Museums, the New Social Media Darlings, via The New York Times


Museum News: September 2016


9/11 museum to open first art exhibit for 15th anniversary of attacks via USA Today

‘Avatar’ Interactive Exhibit Launching in Taiwan in December via Variety

The African American Museum tells powerful stories — but not as powerfully as it could via Washington Post

Science Museum under fire over exhibit asking if brains are pink or blue via Guardian

Obama Says African-American Museum Will Tell of ‘Suffering and Delight’ via New York Times

Iraqi dictator’s palace becomes museum via Washington Post

2 Stolen Van Goghs Recovered By Anti-Mafia Police In Italy via NPR


Museum News: August 2016

“Adam” and “Eve,” a pair of oil-on-panel paintings created by Lucas Cranach the Elder circa 1530. (Norton Simon Art Foundation)


Prince’s Paisley Park to Be Turned Into Museum, via ABC News 

Burke Museum welcomes new arrival: a T. rex skull, via The Seattle Times

Court rules museum can keep Nazi-looted Adam and Eve masterpieces with a hidden past, via Los Angeles Times

Michael Jordan gives $5 million to African American museum, via The Washington Post

Industrial museum opens in former Pennsylvania steel plant, via The Seattle Times

He Died At 32, But A Young Artist Lives On In LA’s Underground Museum, via NPR


Museum News: July 2016

A Doduo in the Pokemon Go app found in the Holocaust Museum in D.C . (Screengrab by Andrea Peterson)


Holocaust Museum to visitors: Please stop catching Pokémon here, via the Washington Post

First Look at the Museum of Ice Cream in New York City, via ABC News

9/11 Museum to Open Its First Art Exhibition in September, via New York Times

Elderly woman fills in crossword-themed artwork worth $90,000 in German museum, via RT News

Oldest papyrus ever discovered revealed at Egyptian Museum, via Science Magazine

Hong Kong museum commemorating Tiananmen massacre to close, via CNN

5 chosen for National Civil Rights Museum’s Freedom Awards, via The Washington Times



Museum News: June 2016

A rendering of plans for the Lucas Museum of Narrative Art if built on Chicago’s lakeshore. (Lucas Museum of Narrative Art)

Denmark’s ‘Martyr Museum’ Places Socrates And Suicide Bombers Side-By-Side, via NPR

The Auschwitz Museum has unearthed lost possessions of victims, via Newsweek

Could Prince’s Paisley Park become a museum like Elvis’ Graceland?, via Chicago Tribune

Smithsonian to Open London Exhibition Space With Victoria and Albert Museum, via New York Times

America Curates The First Official Cheetos Museum, via PR Newswire

George Lucas abandons Chicago, will build new museum in California, via Los Angeles Times