Meetings, Current

Artefacts 2021: Responding to COVID-19 (a virtual meeting)

To register please contact Johannes Sauter at


Preliminary Program All times given refer to UTC + 2.
[note that time allotted for each presentation includes 5 minutes for discussion]

Sunday, 17 October 2021|

Session 1
15.00: Welcome, Helmuth Trischler (Deutsches Museum)
15.05: Responding and Reinventing Collections-based Public Programs, Andrew Johnston (The Adler Planetarium)
15.30: Responses of the Science Museum, Tilly Blyth (Science Museum Group)
15.55: Science Museums and the Intangible: Curating Computer Code. Panel discussion, Moderator: Ross Parry (Leicester University), Panelists: Petrina Foti (Loughborough University & Science Museum Group), Hansen Hsu (Computer History Museum), Rachel Boon (Science Museum Group), Kimon Keramidas (New York University)
5 minutes break|

Session 2
16.30: COVID-19, Black Lives Matter and the Dynamic Face of Space Ecology, Cathleen Lewis (National Air and Space Museum)
16.55: Wicked Problems in Science Communication: A Munich Response to the COVID-19 Experience, Helmuth Trischler (Deutsches Museum)

17.20-17.30: General Discussion

Monday, 18 October 2021

Session 3
15.00: Panel Discussion on Responses to COVID-19: Helmuth Trischler (Deutsches Museum), Tilly Blyth (Science Museum Group), Martin Collins (Georgetown University)
15.30 The Ethics of Collecting COVID-19, Sophie Goggins (National Museums of Scotland)
15.55: Response of the Conservatoire des Arts et Métiers-Patstec, Catherine Cuenca (Conservatoire des Arts et Métiers)
5 mins break

Session 4
16.30: Curating under Quarantine: a Curarorial Response to the Challenges of the Pandemic, Erin Gregory,Emily Gann(Ingenium Group)
16.55: Across the Atlantic: The Conservation of Two Original Gliders by Otto Lilienthal, Charlotte Holzer (Deutsches Museum) and Deborah Parr (National Air and Space Museum)

17.20-17.30: The Meaning of the Crisis for Artefacts as a Group, Concluding Discussion


Abstracts (in order of presentation)

Andrew Johnston (Adler Planetarium)
Responding and Reinventing Collections-Based Public Programs

The financial impact of the global pandemic required significant reductions in staff and programs at the Adler Planetarium and many similar institutions. This required rapid changes in how the collection was used in public programs while maintaining adequate storage and protection. Museum outreach pivoted to digital platforms. This included putting greater emphasis on preexisting digital outreach, such as a regular series of online exhibitions. New initiatives were also developed such as collections-focused social media content. These expanded the awareness of the Adler’s history of astronomy artifacts while maintaining the central role of the collection across diverse programs.

Tilly Blyth (Science Museum)
Responses of the Science Museum

For many of us, working in the cultural sector during the pandemic has been enormously difficult. Bui through all the challenges there have been some positive achievements and lessons learned. What does this period tell us about our strengths for an uncertain future? Holding on to our personal passions and our organizational values has never seemed more important.

Moderator: Ross Parry,(Leicester University)
 Petrina Foti  (Loughborough University & Science Museum Group)
Hansen Hsu (Computer History Museum’s Software History Center)
Rachel Boon (Science Museum)
Kimon Keramidas (New York University)
Science Museums and the Intangible: Curating Computer Code

A technological transformation is occurring across the museum sector. As the current pandemic restrictions have shown, digital technology has become normative in all aspects of modern society. For curatorial staff seeking to record this transformation, the problem is two-fold. Curators must confront the problems associated with digital fragility, even as they explore the many ways that computer technology has changed our lives. While it is possible for a museum to collect and exhibit digital objects, the curatorial traditions, which stretch back centuries, do not necessarily encompass digital technology’s associated ecosystems. Museum practice, which is based on objects that are tangible and immutable, must seek to evolve to encompass the digital’s metamorphic and protean qualities. To do so, the museum must contemplate how to collect the most fundamental aspect of computer technology – its code – in a way that is meaningful and accessible for future generations to come. This means we must envision a future for the museum that lies beyond the cabinet of curiosity. This panel, comprised of academics and museum practitioners from the United States and United Kingdom, seeks to confront how the museum might learn to collect and curate the defining artefact of our age – code.

Cathleen Lewis 
(Smithsonian, National Air and Space Museum)
COVID-19, Black Lives Matter and the Dynamic Face of Space Ecology

The concept of space ecology and situational awareness predate the events of 2020, including the Covid-19 pandemic and the pan-national Black Lives Matter movement.   However, the way in which these events have drawn attention to the need for diverse perspectives to confront a global crisis has reinforced the call for a rich, multi-faceted approach to the problem.  The increased use of virtual communications platforms during the pandemic has given substance to promoting diverse perspectives on multiple topics, including space ecology. Concern about the space debris that clutter Low Earth Orbit has moved beyond consideration of the United States’ Space Command or negotiated multi-lateral agreements through the United Nations. Diverse faces and voices are working towards solutions of the space debris problem and are promoting a global education agenda for their movement.  This marks a first for the Space Age, when a broad spectrum of people is at the table discussing a key problem and proposing decisions.

Helmuth Trischler (Deutsches Museum)
Wicked Problems in Science Communication: A Munich Response to the COVID-19 Experience

Current issues such as the COVID-19 pandemic, climate change, and the sixth mass distinction of species are exemplary cases of what Harvard scientists Horst W. Rittel and Melvin M. Webber already in the 1970s called wicked problems: problems with natural, political and social dimensions inextricably linked; problems which can’t be solved on the basis of scientific knowledge; “at best they are only re-solved – over and over again” (Ritter/Webber 1973: 160); problems which point – in the words of historian of science Jürgen Renn – to the need of a mode of knowledge production and dissemination that enables "to balance asymmetries in the ownership and control of knowledge and allow users to become ‘prosumers’” (Renn 2018: 15).

The concept of Planetary Health responds to the rise of super-complex wicked problems and the experience of the global pandemic. Already the early 2000s saw a striking accumulation of zoonoses which motivated physicians and veterinarians to closely collaborate and start the “One Health Initiative.“ The Planetary Health concept, launched in 2015 by the Rockefeller Foundation and the Lancet Commission on Planetary Health, goes one step further in including the health of human and non-human species but also the health of nature and the environment.

Responding to the wicked problem of both the global pandemic and a call for new centres of science communication, an alliance of research institutions has launched the "Munich Science Communication Lab on Planetary Health.“ The project starts on October 1, 2021 and will be generously funded by the VolkswagenFoundation. It brings together first scientists working in the emerging field of planetary health, second experts in science communication researchers at Ludwig Maximilian University with collaborating partners around the globe, and third science communication experts of the Deutsches Museum and BIOTOPIA-Natural History Museum of Bavaria to jointly experiment with new ways and formats of participatory science communication.

The paper will briefly elaborate on first ideas of the new centre which is complemented by the launch of a new "Science Communication Lab“ of the Deutsches Museum itself to be opened in early 2022 with the beginning of phase two of the museum’s overall renewal.

 PANEL discussion
Helmuth Trischler (Deutsches Museum), Tilly Blyth (Science Museum Group), Martin Collins (Georgetown University)

Sophie Goggins  (National Museums Scotland)
The Ethics of Collecting COVID-19

Catherine Cuenca (CNAM-PICST Paris & Université de Nantes)
Covid-19 collecting in the Science and Technology department of NMS.

The health crisis of the years 2020 and 2021 will remain deeply engraved in everyone's memory. In France, the world of museums has been strongly impacted in its activities, its cultural programming and the reception by its audiences. However, direct employment in public sector museums has certainly been less affected than in other countries. Indirect jobs have been much more affected. The same applies to the other sectors of the cultural economy: for example, intermittent workers in the entertainment industry.

During the two lockdowns and successive curfews, the museums adapted. They made unprecedented use of video conferencing platforms to hold their administrative, professional and scientific meetings. In addition, the number of participants for these conferences was often higher than the usual number in face-to-face meetings. Reopening procedures were subject to protocols defined by the government and, for the French cultural administration, have been an opportunity to involve professional associations more strongly in the decision-making process concerning the world of museums.

During the closure periods, new technologies and websites were used to virtually show museums and exhibitions. I will speak here of the example of the Cnam (PICST). The use of digital technology stimulated by the health crisis may have a longer-term impact because of new information technologies in cultural institutions.

Within the framework of safeguarding contemporary scientific and technical heritage, new themes of purpose for collecting objects related to COVID are evoked in several French regions and will be the subject of study days during 2021. These themes will remain as an important topic in future prospects of the Patstec Mission (CNAM-PIC)

COVID-19 is having an impact on most sectors of activity. In France, as in other countries, studies are currently underway within the cultural world, conducted by ministries and professional associations (AGCCPF, FEMS, ICOM...). At the national level, the implementation of a "recovery plan" for culture aims to limit the consequences of the pandemic on employment. As far as heritage in particular is concerned, the importance of public intervention is a delaying factor. It is clearly too early to make a satisfactory estimate for the longer term.

+Erin Gregory (Ingenium: Canada Science and Technology Museum)
Curating Under Quarantine

CuQ is a curatorial initiative that seeks to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic in ‘real-time’ while considering what moments from this event will be significant for future Canadians. The initiative aims to document technological challenges as well as Canadian innovation and adaptations prompted by the pandemic; preserve and share the experiences of the public and museum community; and develop and experiment with new methods and methodologies of curation.

The project required the development of a collecting strategy to address the lack of rapid response framework within Ingenium’s existing acquisition protocols, in addition to the fact that the institution is currently under a collecting moratorium and very conscious of the lack of collection storage space. The CuQ collecting strategy gave Ingenium curators the opportunity to develop an innovative ethical model that works within the institution’s new Collection Development Strategy and explore new museological practices.

This presentation will discuss the CuQ initiative and the lessons learned in both the research and collection elements of the project and the ways in which those lessons could inform future practices at Ingenium.

Charlotte Holzer (Deutsches Museum), Deborah Duerbeck Parr (Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum)
Across the Atlantic: The Conservation of Two Original Glider’s by Otto Lilienthal

The Deutsches Museum in Munich and the National Air and Space Museum (NASM) in Washington, D.C., are undergoing major renovations - and so are the presentations of two directly related objects in both collections: the “Normal Segelapparat” gliders from the workshop of Otto Lilienthal (1848–1896). Interestingly, both museums have Lilienthal gliders with very different conditions and treatment goals. This talk will describe how the two museums collaborated during the Covid-19 pandemic to assist and inform each other.
Two conservators are working on these gliders in their respective studios at the same time, constantly exchanging results of research to meet their conservation objectives. The glider in Munich is very degraded, but the remaining fragments are mostly original materials and shall be preserved with minimal changes. On the other hand, the NASM glider had previously undergone extensive repair, and the aim of the current treatment is to return the glider to its intended design as built in 1896 without altering the original materials.

This talk will detail how the material research on the glider in Munich helped the conservators in Washington find the right balance between conservation and restoration. This presentation will also compare and discuss the ethics involved with the different approaches. Due to the current pandemic situation, site visits were not possible, so both conservators relied on extensive correspondence and digital lab tours. The collaboration included Bernd Lukasch from the Otto-Lilienthal-Museum in Anklam, Germany. His body of knowledge is based on extensive archival research and experience with building reproduction Lilienthal gliders.

This trans-Atlantic object research not only enabled the conservators at NASM to perform the delicate work of recovering their glider, it also enabled their counterparts at the Deutsches Museum to go back in time and analyze every trace they could find on Otto Lilienthal’s original construction methods. In the summer of 2021, the results were presented in an Online Livestream. Future visitors of the historic aviation exhibition at the Deutsches Museum can discover our joint investigation process themselves in a media station.

Charlotte Holzer is the conservator for the historic aviation, maritime and space exhibition at the Deutsches Museum in Munich. She holds a Master’s Degree in textile conservation from the University of Applied Arts in Vienna and a PhD from the Technical University Munich. Her research interests are with technical textiles, the development and testing of materials for object mounts, and ageing phenomena in Russian space suits.

Deborah Duerbeck Parr is a conservator at the National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C. She holds a Master‘s Degree from the Winterthur/University of Delaware Art Conservation Program where she trained in the conservation of wooden artifacts and paintings. She has conducted technical studies on the materials and techniques of painted furniture from the Baltimore region and has researched the causes and treatment of flaking paint and japanning on wood.