The heritage of the Academic Museum in Göttingen

The 'Royal Academic Museum'

Many of the collections that are today spread across more than 30 locations on the campus have their origins in the Royal Academic Museum. Some still contain numerous items from the early days of our university.

Besemann-Ansicht Academisches Museum

In 1773, about forty years after the University of Göttingen was founded, the Royal Academic Museum was opened as a central university institution. Like the entire university, it was committed to Enlightenment ideals: in parallel to the establishment of a central library - and initially also under its roof - a collection of "naturalia" and "artificialia" was compiled. The items were used as material in research and teaching and were also to be accessible to the interested public. Through the purchase of private natural history collections and the systematic acquisition of collections of objects, some of them quite spectacular, the Academic Museum quickly grew to become an institution whose fame spread far beyond Göttingen.

The Academic Museum was committed to a style of teaching based on the presentation and direct viewing of the collection objects. The museum formed the fundamental infrastructure of a research and teaching practice that generated knowledge through the careful inspection of objects and groups of objects. It was used for the purpose of communication from scholar to scholar and between scholars and interested laypeople and it ultimately served as an authority to visually demonstrate research findings. Forum Wissen is deliberately positioning itself within this tradition of object-based research and teaching. Using 21st century methods, it aims to allow people once again to experience and benefit from the university in all its complexity and to see how knowledge is rooted in the materiality of things.


In the course of the 19th century, in particular, from the individual collection fields there emerged subject areas that were increasingly demanding autonomy. In this context, these new subject areas often made reference to their collections, which they used to define and shape their specific focus and specialist discipline. Famous examples here are several ethnographic collections (e.g. the Cook-Forster Collection and the collection items donated by Baron Georg Thomas von Asch) that contributed significantly to the emergence of the discipline of ethnology/ethnography at the end of the 18th century, which was established as an independent subject in Göttingen. The same is true of the University of Göttingen's archaeological and art history collections.