Project Researchers, Doctoral Candidates

Chiara Garbellotto

© Tal Adler

“Knowing and caring for biodiversity. Public engagement ecologies at the Museum für Naturkunde Berlin”

[working title]

Grounded in social anthropology, critical museum studies, and feminist STS approaches, my research project studies multiple modes of doing biodiversity in different ecologies of public engagement practice at the Museum für Naturkunde Berlin (Museum of Natural History 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 epistemic cultures, emergence of publics, and the “participation issue”.

I direct my ethnographic attention especially to guided tours and workshops as material-semiotic mediation assemblages. Through these activities – which unfold according to various purposes, means, and thematic focuses – multiple biodiversities are done differently, assembling subjects and objects in different ways. Moving from an ecofeminist approach, my core interest is to explore how a multiplicity of other modes of knowing and caring for Biodiversity than the technoscientific one can and should be mattered.

In order to think further public engagement practices in museum institutions as research, I co-designed the workshop series oddkin°labs together with researcher Sina Ribak, artists Constanza Mendoza and Sybille Neumeyer and film maker Debbie Onhuoa. During three sessions, we invited MfN practitioners, artists and researchers to test different formats and critically engage with the themes of co-evolution, taxidermy and rocks’ entanglements.

In my PhD scholarship position (2017-2020), my supervisor is Prof. Dr. Tahani Nadim and my co-supervisor is Prof. Dr. Sharon MacDonald.

Academic and professional background

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. My MA dissertation in Museum Anthropology was based on ethnographic research conducted at the London-based Wellcome Collection, where I examined verbal and non-verbal processes of meaning construction during guided tours of the permanent exhibition “Medicine Now”.

In 2015 I conducted a four-months work placement as part of the artistic project “Museum of Contemporary Commodities” co-founded by artist-researcher Paula Crutchlow and Cultural Geographer Ian Cook, University of Exeter. The project was hosted at London-based Furtherfield Gallery.

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

In January 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 during participatory workshops in exhibiting contexts.

In 2016 I worked as assistant exhibition registrar for La Biennale di Venezia Foundation in the frame of the Architecture Biennale supporting, among others, the pavilion A World of Fragile Parts realised by the Victoria and Albert Museum.

In the same year, I was intern project assistant for RAVE – East Village Artistic Residency. The theme of that edition was “Animal Spaces” and the artist in residence Tomàs Saraceno. It was co-designed in collaboration with the Politecnico in Milan (“Milano Animal City” project) and the Technische Universität Braunshweig (BioBerlin project).