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Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin - Science Communication in 20th Century Europe

Science Communication in 20th Century Europe

International Working Group - Berlin Organizer: Dr. Arne Schirrmacher




ECSITE Annual Conference

Jun. 6-8, 2019, Copenhagen, Denmark

  • Session:
    Fifty Years and Counting: Two Seminal Science Centres Look to the Future
    • ECSITE Website
    • Session Leader: Rob Semper, Exploratorium, San Francisco
    • Presenters:
Arne Schirrmacher, Dept. History of Science, Humboldt University Berlin
Maurice Bitran, CEO and Chief Science Officer Ontario Science Centre,Toronto Canada
Christopher Flink, Executive Director Exploratorium, San Francisco
Gillian Thomas, consultant and President Emerita, Phillip and Patricia Frost Museum of Science, Monaco


1969 was a significant year. Neil Armstrong walked on the moon, the hippies came of age, the Beatles performed for the very last time and the Internet was invented. That same year the Ontario Science Centre in Toronto and the Exploratorium in San Francisco opened their doors. A product of the post-sputnik science education fervor and the open education movement of the times, these boundary-pushing organisations served to fuel by example the explosion of non-collections based science centres worldwide.Today, these two organisations have each undergone a significant strategic planning process that builds on their past strengths but points them in new directions for the next 50 years. This session will explore the roots of these institutions at the early history of the science centre movement and discuss their recent visioning process which shows how they have worked to adapt to a changing world.




Exhibition: Architectures of Science
    The Universities of Berlin in a European Perspective


Jun. 18 - Jul. 30, 2018, Foyer of the Faculty of Law of the Humboldt Universität zu Berlin, Bebelplatz 2, 10117 Berlin


Feb. 1 - Mar. 10, 2019, Henry-Ford-Bau der Freien Universität Berlin, Gallery, Garystr. 35, 14195 Berlin-Dahlem - daily, 9 am to 6 pm

Concept: Gabriele Metzler and Arne Schirrmacher, Department of History, HU Berlin

For about three centuries, buildings of science have shaped the urban face of Berlin. Initially it was the buildings of the Academy of Sciences and the Charité, but from the early 19th century to the present day the universities have had a decisive influence on the appearance of the city. The interweaving of the modern scientific landscape with the development of a European metropolis from enlightened absolutism to the present is condensed in the archetectonic heritage.



Association of Science and Technology Centers (ASTC) Annual Conference

Sep. 29 - Oct. 2, 2018, Hartford CT, USA

  • Session:
    The Foundations of Interactive Exhibit Design: An Historical Discussion
    • ASTC Website
    • Session Leader: Rob Semper, Exploratorium, San Francisco
    • Presenter: Arne Schirrmacher, UC Berkeley & Humboldt University Berlin

Interactive exhibits became the signature of science centers that developed in the 60’s. While the design of these exhibits seemed to have developed independently, there is evidence that suggests a common history. This presentation by an historian will examine their history and support a discussion of the nature of interactivity.



Annual Meeting of History of Science Society (HSS)

Nov. 19-22, 2017, Toronto, Canada

  • Session:
    On Display: Museums in Twentieth-Century North America
    • HSS Website
    • Chair: Bethany G. Anderson, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Married To The Field: Gender, Authority, And Institutional Culture At The Field Museum During The “Heller Affair.” - Matthew Laubacher, Ashford University San Diego
“A Perfect Birthday Present From The American People To Themselves”: Shaping The National Air And Space Museum, 1969-1972 - Jieun Shin, University of Minnesota
North American World's Fairs And The The Re-invention Of The Science Museum In The 1960s - Arne Schirrmacher, Humboldt University, Berlin


Jahrestagung der GWMT

Sept. 22-24, 2017, Münster, Germany

  • Session:
    Wozu Wissenschaftsmuseen? Neue Ansätze für die öffentliche Wissenschaftsreflexion,
    ca. 1960-2025
    • Website
    • Chair: Anke te Heesen, Humboldt-Universität
Ohne historische Exponate, aber mit human empowerment: Frank Oppenheimers Exploratorium 1969 - Arne Schirrmacher, HU Berlin
Against the simplicity myth. The 1990s “Empires of Physics” and “1900: The New Age” exhibitions revisited and what we have learned for teaching and historical research - Richard Staley, Cambridge University
Vitrine, Schaufenster, Membran? – Gestaltungs- und Vermittlungskonzepte des Göttinger "Forum Wissen" - Marie Luisa Allemeyer, Universität Göttingen, Zentrale Kustodie
Zwischen Tradition und Transformation: Zur Ausstellungspraxis von Wissenschaft und Technik im "Deutschen Museum 2025" - Ulrich Kernbach, Deutsches Museum München



Mini-Workshop on Science in Film

(in German)

July1, 2016, 2-6 pm, Berlin, Humboldt University, Friedrichstr. 191-193, #5028

"Lehrfilm, Forschungsfilm, Methodenfilm – Formen und Funktionen des frühen Wissenschaftsfilms"

with Anja Sattelmacher, Christian Reiß, Arne Schirrmacher, Anja Laukötter



Display/Politics: From the Transparent Woman to Enola Gay (Key Readings)

Seminar at Humboldt University, Summer Term 2016



Workgroup Brochure

now available 







Annual Meeting of History of Science Society (HSS)

Nov. 19-22, 2015, San Francisco, USA



6th International Conference of the European Society for the History of Science (ESHS)

on »Communicating Science, Technology and Medicine«

Sept. 4-6, 2014, Lisbon, Portugal



24th International Congress of History of Science, Technology and Medicine

July 22-28, 2013, Manchester, UK

► Topics ► Program

organized by Arne Schirrmacher and Jean-Baptiste Gouyon


Institut für Geschichtswissenschaften

ESF Logo

Exploratory Workshop:


Putting Science on the Air in Europe, 1920s to 1980s

► Topics ► Program ► Summaries

May 3-5, 2012, Luisenstr. 56, 10117 Berlin



Recent Publications


Journal issue on

Communicating Science: National Approaches inTwentieth-Century Europe

Science in Context 2013 (with contributions by Paola Govoni, Peter Bowler, Bernadette Bensaude-Vincent, Arne Schirrmacher, James Andrews, Agustí Nieto-Galan)  * Introduction


Journal issue on

Popular Science Between News and Education: A European Perspective

Science and Education 2012 (with contributions by E. Mergoupi-Savaidou/F. Papanelopoulou/S: Tzokas, A. Simões/A. Carneiro/M. Diogo, N. Herran, T. Franck, A. Schirrmacher)



From Kosmos to Koralle. On the Culture of Science Reading in Imperial and Weimar Germany

in: Quantum Mechanics and Weimar Culture: Revisiting the Forman Thesis, ed. by C. Carson, A. Kojevnikov and H. Trischler, London: Imperial College Press, 2011, 433-452

German version



Communicating science in 20th century Europe. A survey on research and comparative perspectives (PDF 12,6 MB) ed. by A. Schirrmacher

Max Planck Insitute for the History of Science, Preprint 385, 2009



A. Schirrmacher: Nach der Popularisierung. Zur Relation von Wissenschaft und Öffentlichkeit im 20. Jahrhundert (PDF)

in: Geschichte und Gesellschaft 34 (2008), 73-95



Workshops and related Conference Symposia


Berlin Workshop 2010, May 6–8, Max Planck Institute for the History of Science

20th Century Science Communication in Europe: The Political and Cultural Context (PDF Flyer)

organized by Arne Schirrmacher


Barcelona ESHS 2010 - Symposium S-39

Representations of Science and Technology in the European Daily Press

organized by Ana Simoes and Faidra Papanelopoulou


Lisbon HoST Workshop 2010

Ciência e Tecnologia para o povo

organized by Tiago Saraiva et al.


Budapest ICHST 2009 - Symposium S-53

Communicating Science in 20th Century Europe: Comparative Perspectives

organized by Arne Schirrmacher and Leszek Zasztowt