Seminar on Material Culture at Wendish Museum Cottbus 22 February 2023 | Projekt

Led by Prof. Dr. Astrid Schwarz and Dr. Anca Claudia, the BTU hosted a seminar titled "What Material Culture?" at the Wendish Museum Cottbus on 22 February 2023 with the aim of exploring the museum's objects through the perspective of new materialist theories.

The seminar was opened by Ms. Christina Kliem, Curator of the Wendish Museum (see Picture 1). The event was attended by about 20 participants and was also livestreamed on WebEx (see Picture 2).

The seminar consisted of 10 presentation sessions, each exploring a different exhibit from the museum. The presentations were diverse and covered a range of topics, from the lines on a ship ticket, stories hidden in a Wendish chest, naming of medicinal plants, woodblock printing on textiles to the cultural significance of a Wendish goat bagpipe, backgammon game, souvenir doll, spinning wheel, church door and replica of a cult figure. The sessions sparked fruitful discussions and provided insights into the application of new materialism in museum studies.

The first presentation was given by Alex Tam, who examined a 19th-century ship ticket that traced the life stories and travels of a Wendish family who migrated to South Australia. Tam's analysis demonstrated how the interconnections between people and things shaped the historical event. The second group, consisting of Mina Barzegar and Mahyar M.M. Moghaddam, discussed the stories hidden in a Wendish Chest that belonged to Gottfried Schlodder in Iowa and was used to store clothes. Their presentation highlighted the personal and cultural significance of everyday objects and how they can provide insights into the lives of individuals and communities.

The third group, Jorgen Nollner and Luanne Meehiyiya, analyzed the translations of medicinal plant names in a botanical manuscript written by Albinos Mollerus, an excommunicated Wendish pastor, based on an extension of Latour's circulating reference. Anastasia Kandoba and Samantha El Sokhn discussed the function of a wooden printing block in the making of indigo-dyed textiles that was popular in Central Europe during the 17th and 18th centuries.

Saeed Asaeed and Adya Kumari's presentation demonstrated the universal dimensions of backgammon, one of the oldest ancient board games in the world, and its potential for promoting cross-cultural understanding in museums. They highlighted the role of games in cultural exchange and the significance of material objects in shaping cultural practices. Zeineb Ghariani and Anna Lee raised questions about tourist gaze, authenticity, and identity through their analysis of the dual and paradoxical nature of a Wendish souvenir doll and its significance in cultural representation, based on the notion of wave-particle duality.

Andrey Golikov and Taiaba Amin discussed the distinctive features of a Wendish goat bagpipe, known as the Kozol, and its vibrancy in Wendish culture and traditions. Daniela Nisslhen and Dana AlSalamin investigated the ecological, social, and cultural dimensions of a Kolesko (spinning wheel) in Sorbian culture and proposed ways to sustain visitors' interest in the object through new media technology.

Niklas Grass's study on the overprinted wrought iron signs on a Werben church door uncovered the layers of history since the early 15th century and the conflicts over different temporalities. Finally, Brianna Eiset and Emily-Jane Vowles explored how the language used in a museum label of a replica of an 11th/12th-century double-headed cult figure in conjunction with visitors’ preconceptions turned into a reductionist view of the material world.

Overall, the seminar provided a valuable platform for examining the museum objects through new materialist theories, which seek to challenge traditional understandings of material culture and encourage a more holistic and relational approach. The seminar's presentations and discussions offered insightful perspectives and brought to light hidden stories and dimensions of the museum objects, making it a fruitful and engaging event for all participants.

More Photos