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Detoxifying the Museum

Our research into the Humboldt Forum centers around the intersection of chemical and cultural toxicity, used by the institution to control the objects in its collection and the cultures they belong to. In its current state, objects in the Humboldt Forum are frozen and decontextualized, stripped of their original meanings, and suspended from progress. We envision a different future for the Humboldt Forum, one where it becomes an active space for material restitution and community practices. The vast network of resources currently used to uphold the museum’s toxicity can be repurposed to support restitution and the surrounding processes instead. Our design studies have been guided by the history of the Luf Island boat that can become a lens for intervention. Through the harmful chemical processes, the lost culture and knowledge of making artworks, and the confrontation of preservationist mentalities, we see these layers of toxicity as a gradient of material to immaterial intervention that can be translated into programmable spaces and transform the Humboldt Forum. Our approach involves blending machines and cultural spaces, with practices that focus on material restitution being supported primarily by nonhuman abilities and immaterial restitution being supported by spaces that facilitate human knowledge.