Stimulating research through collections and objects

The BMBF promotes research with cultural heritage in collections, museums, libraries and archives. The aim of the funding priority is to unlock the knowledge condensed in or derivable from objects through research and thereby make (socio-)cultural development processes easier to understand. Two funding initiatives enable researchers to pursue corresponding research questions in the humanities, social and cultural sciences in interdisciplinary contexts.

“The language of objects – material culture in the context
of societal developments”

With this funding initiative, the BMBF supports research projects that examine objects in their cultural and societal contexts in the sense of material culture studies. The projects analyse a wide range of objects in terms of their ascribed meanings, but also as material evidence of socio-cultural practices. This encourages the examination of objects in humanities, cultural and social science contexts, in collaboration with technological or natural science disciplines. It also enables collections, museums and other institutions concerned with material cultural heritage to advance research into and with the world of things in cooperation with other scientific partners.

The call for proposals was first published in 2012 and is scheduled to run for several years. It echoes aspects of the "Translative functions" and "Interactions" calls for proposals, which were published by the BMBF as part of the funding initiative “Freedom for the humanities”.

"Translative functions of the humanities"
Translative abilities represent a basic human competence. They manifest themselves for example in skills and abilities of speech, modelling, ordering, comparing, counting or recollection, and are also a core competence of the humanities. The concepts of “communication” (intra- and intercultural discourse), “representation” (of the past in the sense of a cultural memory) and “transfer” (discourse between the humanities, social, life and natural sciences) reflect central aspects of the translative competence of the humanities.

A total of 25 joint projects are or have been funded as part of the BMBF call for proposals “Translative functions of the humanities”. 14 of these examine the topic of translation using objects and approaches from the museological field; eleven further projects focus on issues relating to translation using a wide range of cultural aspects in cooperation between universities and other research institutions.


Broschüre "Die Sprache der Objekte - Kulturelles Erbe bewahren, erforschen und vermitteln"     Titelbild der Publikation                     german [Februar 2017]

Contact Persons

Language of objects:
Dr. Christopher Wertz

+49 0228 3821-1577
+49 0228 3821-1500

Dr. Kerstin Lutteropp

+49 0228 3821-1642
+49 0228 3821-1500

Dr. Claudia Hauser
+49 0228 3821-1842
+49 0228 3821-1500


Alexander von Humboldts Travel Diaries
Dr. Cedric Janowicz

+49 0228 3821-1769
+49 0228 3821-1500