Visiting the Modern Wunderkammer: Social-spatial Inequalities in Ways of Knowing




visitors tracking, socio-spatial approach, MCA, refiguration of spaces, exhibition design


Based on the assumption that museums have been spatially transformed in recent decades in the course of globalization, decolonization, and mediatization, we investigate from a socio-spatial perspective what influence this has on visitor experience and whether it leads to inequalities in ways of knowing. To this end, we conducted a visitor study in a science exhibition in a newly opened museum complex in Berlin, by using a mixed methods approach combining movement tracking, visitor survey and ethnographic observation. By analyzing the spatial practice in and spatial perception of the exhibition, we developed parameters along which spatial appropriation in the museum differs and correlated them with variables relating to museum spatial knowledge and scientific expertise. By integrating the spatial and social data using a multiple correspondence analysis protocol, we show that the legibility of museum space varies according to the visitors' cultural and specific symbolic-spatial capital. As this unequal access to the museum space has a direct influence on ways of knowing, the study shows that inequalities are reproduced by the current spatial refiguration of the museum.

Author Biographies

Sarah Etz, Humboldt Universität zu Berlin

Sarah Etz studied Social Sciences and European Ethnology at the Ruhr-Universität Bochum and the Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin. From 2021-2022, she was research assistant in the interdisciplinary research project Museum Raum Wissen at Humboldt-University zu Berlin and coordinated the science communication of the CRC 1265 "Re-Figuration of Spaces". Currently, she has been a doctoral researcher as part of the CRC 1512 "Intervening Arts", investigating the planned science campus between the natural history museum Berlin and Humboldt-University as a future workshop.

Séverine Marguin, Technische Universität Berlin

Séverine Marguin, (Dr.) sociologist, is Head of the Methods-Lab and of the Graduate School within the CRC 1265 “Re-Figuration of Spaces” at Technische Universität Berlin. Aside from her habilitation on the relationship between sociology and design, she leads two research projects: "Afronovelas: Spatial Stories and Production Regime in West-African Soaps" at the TU Berlin and "Museum Knowledge Space" in collaboration with the HU Berlin. Her interdisciplinary research focus lies on culture and knowledge production, sociology of space, experimental and design-based methods.

Henrike Rabe, BIM Berlin

Henrike Rabe is an architect and researcher with a focus on 'architectures of knowledge' such as laboratories, museums and schools. Currently, as a construction manager for BIM GmbH, she oversees the planning and (re)construction of cultural buildings in Berlin. Previously, she was a doctoral researcher for the research project ArchitecturesExperiments at the Cluster of Excellence Image Knowledge Gestaltung at Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin. As an architect, she worked amongst others with Kazuhiro Kojima + Kazuko Akamatsu / CAt in Tokyo and with Brisac Gonzalez in London. She studied architecture at Technische Universität Berlin.




How to Cite

Etz, S., Marguin, S., & Rabe, H. (2024). Visiting the Modern Wunderkammer: Social-spatial Inequalities in Ways of Knowing. Museum & Society, 22(1), 67–93.



Museums Refigured