Henriette Pleiger

Working title: Interdisciplinary Exhibitions and the Production of Knowledge


Dr Emma Martin, Dr Kostas Arvanitis


My research contributes to the analysis and transparency of the practical processes of interdisciplinary exhibition-making, and advocates the potential of interdisciplinary exhibitions to create new knowledge. The experimental crossing of disciplinary boundaries seems especially relevant for exhibitions on topics of pressing public concern which deserve a wider perspective and cannot be dealt with or even be solved by one discipline alone. My research identifies the academic discourse on interdisciplinarity as having the potential to provide a meaningful input to the formation of theory on temporary exhibition-making. The subject of enquiry are three recent case studies from Germany. These exhibition cases combined curatorial perspectives from the fields of art, cultural history and science. The analysis traces the curatorial process, from forming an interdisciplinary team and negotiating conceptual ideas and methods, to object choices, interpretation and exhibition design. I argue that the complexity of interdisciplinary exhibition-making calls for a more precise and practice-oriented application of what is an often generalized notion of interdisciplinarity. By discerning between multi-, inter- and transdisciplinarity, and understanding the three terms as offering different qualities of interaction and integration, I suggest using these terms as a finer vocabulary for a detailed description and analysis of the practical processes of collaborative exhibition-making. Taking interdisciplinarity seriously also inevitably leads to the question of institutional consequences.


I have been working as an exhibition curator at the Bundeskunsthalle in Bonn, Germany, since 2002. In this position I have co-curated and organized several large temporary exhibitions often combining art, cultural history and science. These include “Touchdown – An Exhibition with and about People with Down’s Syndrome” (2016), and “Weather Report – About Weather Culture and Climate Science” (2017). In 2016 I started studying for a Professional Doctorate in Museum Practice at the University of Manchester. As part-time student, this PhD programme allows me to reflect on my on-going professional work theoretically and practically, to join the recent discussions in museum studies and to further develop my academic education. I previously studied Chinese studies, philosophy, and German literature in Vienna, Beijing, and Frankfurt am Main, and did my M.A. degree in Chinese studies in 1997.

Publications and presentations

Pleiger, H. (2020). The 'Inter-Disciplined' Exhibition - A Case Study, in: Museum and Society, v. 18, n. 4, pp. 349-367, Oct. 2020. ISSN 1479-8360. Available at: https://journals.le.ac.uk/ojs1/index.php/mas/article/view/3132/3177 Date accessed: 15 dec. 2020. DOI

Baumgart, B. and Pleiger, H. (2018). Workshop ‘Partizipative Zugänge’ (Workshop 'Participatory Approaches'), in: Maul, B. and Röhlke, C. (eds.). Museum und Inklusion: Kreative Wege zur kulturellen Teilhabe (Museum and Inclusion. Creative Ways of Cultural Participation). Bielefeld: Transcript (Edition Museum), pp. 111-119. DOI

Concepts and academic editing of exhibition catalogues for several large exhibitions including own contributions, as well as publications in Chinese studies such as: 

Pleiger, H. (2010). 74 biographical entries on Chinese authors from antiquity to the 13th century, in: Wolfgang Kubin (ed.): Geschichte der chinesischen Literatur [History of Chinese Literature],vol. 9: Marc Hermann, Weiping Huang, Henriette Pleiger, Thomas Zimmer: Biographisches Handbuch chinesischer Schriftsteller. Leben und Werke [Biographical Handbook of Chinese Authors. Life and Works]. München: De Gruyter/ Saur. DOI

Contact details

Email: henriette.pleiger@postgrad.manchester.ac.uk

Office email: pleiger@bundeskunsthalle.de