The Museum as a Choir: Visitor Reactions to the Multivocality at the Humboldt Forum’s Berlin Global Exhibition

Andrei Zavadski, Irene Hilden


The contemporary museum has two contradictory agendas. It is supposed to be a place of dialogue, debate, and even conflict – and it is called upon not to shy away from positioning itself in relation to contemporary discussions, which implies engaging in an activist museum practice and advancing social justice. The current article contributes to the debates on this apparent paradox from an audience studies perspective. Adopting Berlin Global, an exhibition in the newly opened Humboldt Forum in Berlin, Germany, as a case study, it describes the exhibition’s embeddedness in the human rights framework as a choir-like, polyphonic multivocality, seen as a type of multiperspectivity in which a diversity of voices ‘sing’ in unison. Employing ethnography as the methodological approach, the authors analyse visitor reactions to the exhibition’s multiperspectivity and positioning. They demonstrate that some visitors perceive Berlin Global as highly political and even ideological. This leads the authors to join the arguments in favour of ‘agonistic interventions’ that not only potentiate a better balance of multivocality with positioning and thus offer a solution to the aforementioned paradox, but also, they contend, increase the chance of engaging those who would otherwise reject the exhibition.


ethnography, New Museology, multiperspectivity, social justice, visitor studies

Full Text:



Copyright (c) 2023 Andrei Zavadski, Irene Hilden

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.
We use both functional and performance cookies to improve visitor experience. Continue browsing if you are happy to accept cookies. Please see our Privacy Policy for more information.

Museum and Society

ISSN 1479-8360

University Home