© Jan Zappner


Leibniz Association
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“We need to express the importance of evidence”


Leibniz visits Smithsonian: Goal of the meeting was to discuss aim, scope and challenges of research museums and to explore possible cooperation.

From Oct. 30th to Nov. 1st 2017 a delegation led by Leibniz President Matthias Kleiner accompagnied by the directors of the eight Leibniz research museums visited the Smithsonian Institution in Washington D.C.. Smithsonian comprises 19 museums and the National Zoo. With about 30 million visitors per year it is the world‘s largest museum, education and research organization. Goal of the meeting was to discuss aim, scope and challenges of research museums and to explore possible cooperation between the two institutions.

In an introductory session, Smithonian Secretary, David Skorton, and Matthias Kleiner discussed the role and responsibility of research museums within society and how to intensify engagement with the public. „Science plays a vital role in and for our society but it is not self-explanatory. It’s the task of the scientists and of their institutions such as Smithsonian and Leibniz to explain what they are doing and why“, says Matthias Kleiner. „Right now, there is an on-going public discussion about what constitutes the „truth““, complements David Skorton, „but scientists are not the keepers of an ultimate truth. Scientific progress has to allow for alterations and corrections as new observations are made. We have to explain how this process functions. What we need to express to the public is the importance of evidence.“

Further topics discussed at the meeting that took place at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History were the exchange of experience as well as respective programs to foster interdisciplinarity, the evaluation of exhibitions and research programs, digitization of collections, educational programs and the status of research within the exhibitions.  „Similarities between the institutions are astounding,“ resumes Matthias Kleiner. „I’m sure we can learn a lot from each other. And I’m looking forward to discuss further projects and acitivities.“ First of all the institutions agreed upon a counter visit of Smithonian to the Leibniz Association as well as exploring the possibility of building a global community of leading research museums.


Mirjam Kaplow
Leibniz Association
Tel.: +49 30 / 20 60 49 – 42