Sharon Macdonald and Tal Adler: "Who is ID8470? Making an artistic difference in the Humboldt Forum, Berlin"

The Departmental Seminar Series features Sharon Macdonald, Professor of Social Anthropology in the Institute of European Anthropology, Humboldt University of Berlin, and Tal Adler, artist and researcher at the Centre for Anthropological Research on Museums and Heritage.

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The seminar will be held on Zoom. Join Zoom Meeting.


This talk will present a newly opened exhibit – Who is ID8470? – in the Humboldt Forum, Berlin. Created by artist Tal Adler as part of an anthropological research project, Making Differences – Transforming Museums and Heritage,* run by Sharon Macdonald, the work is displayed within the Humboldt University’s Humboldt Labor. It concerns a skull with markings according to the ideas (later called ‘phrenological’) of Franz Joseph Gall.  Adler’s work is designed to raise questions about the nature and status of knowledge about the skull (and such objects more widely), as well as about the ethical and epistemological implications of its display.

In addition to presenting this artwork itself, the talk will discuss the wider context of its making and reception, as well as developments and possibilities within the relationships between anthropology and art. How far might such a work make a difference to public understanding and to curatorial practices more widely?


Sharon Macdonald is Alexander von Humboldt Professor of Social Anthropology in the Institute of European Anthropology, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, where she founded and directs the CARMAH (the Centre for Anthropological Research on Museums and Heritage). In addition to Making Differences, recent and ongoing projects in which she is or has been involved include: TRACES. Transmitting Contentious Cultural Heritages with the Arts. From Intervention to Co-Production (EU); Heritage Futures (AHRC); Matters of Activity (DFG); Curating Digital Images (DFG); and Challenging Populist Truth-Making in Europe: The Role of Museums in a Digital ‘Post-Truth’ Society (VW). Trained at the University of Oxford, she has also held full Professorships at the Universities of Sheffield, Manchester and York. Her books include Behind the Scenes at the Science Museum, Difficult Heritage, Memorylands, and (as co-author) Heritage Futures.


Tal Adler is an artist and researcher at the Centre for Anthropological Research on Museums and Heritage (CARMAH). For the TRACES project (EU H2020, 2016-2019) he developed long term Creative Co-productions between artists, researchers and institutions, for creating meaningful and sustainable ways to disseminate contentious cultural heritages. For the artistic research projects ‘MemScreen’ and ‘Conserved Memories’ at the Academy of Fine Arts Vienna (FWF PEEK, 2011-2016), he conducted extensive artistic research on the politics of memory and display in Austria, published and exhibited artistic work on difficult heritage at marginal and established museums, landscapes, sites of commemoration and civil society organisations. For over two decades he has been developing methods of collaborative artistic research for engaging with difficult pasts and conflicted communities in Israel/Palestine and in Europe.

Published Jan. 18, 2021 9:48 AM - Last modified Mar. 10, 2021 10:04 AM