Chiara Garbellotto

Tal Adler

As part of CARMAH’s “Science and Citizenship” research area, in May 2018 I have started my 2nd year of PhD.

Grounded in critical museum anthropology and practice theory, my project studies multiple modes of doing biodiversity in public engagement activities at the Museum für Naturkunde, Berlin. The on-going major structural and infrastructural renovations at this museum make it a particularly exciting research context. Matters engaged include citizen science, coexistence of different knowledge cultures, publics’ diversity, use of digital media.

In order to understand the complexity of this research environment, I direct my ethnographic attention to group, designed, mediated, and experience/learning-oriented events. I specifically attend to guided tours, workshops, talks, and citizen science projects. In these activities – which unfold according to various purposes, means, and thematic focuses – multiple biodiversities are done differently . Issues of sexual selection, eco-services, and scientific practice itself, together with different values concerning multispecies relations and sustainable modes of living and caring, are mobilised, articulated, and distributed by different actors in the institution and beyond. Biodiversity in museum public engagement also does something as an epistemic object: it generates a multiplicity of doers such as “the visitors”, “the stakeholders”, “the citizens”, “the participants”.

Concerned with this double movement of doings, I see my research as an ethnographic intervention that aims at diffracting the disciplines of social anthropology, critical museum studies, and feminist STS. Working on how the three theoretical toolkits relate to each other, I explore how to think otherwise public engagement practices in museums of natural history.


Academic background

In 2016 I received a master’s degree in Museums, Galleries, and Contemporary Culture from the University of Westminster, London. My final project dealt with informal learning experiences of participatory workshops in exhibiting contexts. It was carried out as part of the artistic project “Museum of Contemporary Commodities” co-founded by artist-researcher Paula Crutchlow, Cultural Geographer Ian Cook, and University of Exeter. The project was hosted by London-based Furtherfield Gallery, where I conducted a four-months work placement.

In 2015 I was Engage Volunteer at the Horniman Museum and Gardens, London.

In 2012, I gained a master’s degree in Cultural Anthropology and Ethnology from the University of Bologna – from which I also gained my bachelor’s degree – with a dissertation in Museum Anthropology. In 2011, I undertook a four-month ethnography at the London-based Wellcome Collection, examining verbal and non-verbal processes of meaning construction during guided tours of the permanent exhibition “Medicine Now”.