Doctoral Candidates

Helena Kieß

© Helena Kieß

I am a researcher and doctoral candidate at CARMAH. Before joining the centre in October 2020, I studied “Visual, Material and Museum Anthropology” (MSc) at the University of Oxford and cultural anthropology and Islamic studies (BA) in Heidelberg, Beirut and Frankfurt am Main. I also worked as curatorial assistant for an exhibition project on anthropological perspectives on age(ing). As part of the project “Challenging Populist Truth-Making in Europe: The Role of Museums in a Digital ‘Post-Truth’ European Society (CHAPTER)”, funded by VolkswagenStiftung, I am now probing questions of digital innovation and visitor engagement in museum spaces.


The project CHAPTER intends to contribute to an understudied field: the impact of populist truth-making on museum and heritage spaces in Europe. In order to meaningfully challenge these truth-making practices an international team of researchers in Berlin (HU), Krakow (JU) and London (UCL) plans to come up with 1) a best practice portfolio for museum practitioners and public decision-makers and 2) an innovative museum app for three partner museums and their young visitors.


Besides being involved in researching populist impact on museum spaces and educational counter-strategies of museums, my own role in the project will mainly revolve around using the strength of ethnographic research for the preparation of the app development. This includes the evaluation of existing museum apps and the thorough study of the visitor experiences as well as digital and truth-making practices of young visitors in the “affective contact zone” of the Berlin-based partner museum of the project (tbd). After the participatory co-design, adjustment and final launch of the app in cooperation with the Vienna-based project partner Fluxguide, I will furthermore study its use in order to gain critical knowledge about the potential of digital media in museum contexts on a much broader level.


My doctoral thesis, supervised by Prof. Dr. Christoph Bareither (first supervisor) and Prof. Dr. Sharon Macdonald (second supervisor), will finally merge the ethnographic data collected during the various phases of the project with anthropological lenses on museums, heritage, business, art, media and the digital in order to reflect on digital innovation and visitor engagement in museum spaces in the context of populist truth-making in Europe.