Interview with new director Christoph Bledorn

Göttingen.The Knowledge Forum will open on Pentecost, and then Göttingen residents will be able to look at the new science museum at the train station for the first time. In the past few weeks, there have also been discussions about the future organizational form. Christoph Bledorn, Professor and Head of the Department “Evolution and Biodiversity of Animals” at the Georg-August University in Göttingen and Head of the Museum of Biodiversity, is the Director of the Knowledge Forum as of June 1. In an interview, the 47-year-old talks about his plans.

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You are taking on a responsible mission that is largely in the public interest. Did you find the decision easy?

First of all, I thought about how things would continue in the future in the former zoologist’s house in Berliner Strasse. But: Yes, I can imagine this task very well.

It’s a little complicated, because the former head of the Central Guard, Marie-Luisa Almayer, was also in charge of the Knowledge Forum. What tasks do you take on?

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I cannot and will not replace Allemeyer one for one. I’ll be the house manager. The position of head of the central guard is re-advertised. In the future, the Central Guard will be attached to the Lower Saxony State Library and the University. This area is in good hands at SUB since there is a great deal of knowledge about digitization and archiving.

There are three areas in the building located on Berliner Street: the Knowledge Forum, the Museum of Biodiversity and the Thomas Obermann Cultural Forum in the building. Who manages them?

As before, Benjamin Boring of the Public Relations Department is responsible for the Kulturforum and Maria Teresa Aguado for the Museum of Biodiversity. Allemeyer’s position is still being announced. From June I will be the chair of the Knowledge Forum, so to speak.

When will the Biodiversity Museum open?

We want to open the museum in 2025, as well as the Thomas Oppermann Kulturforum.

That’s too ambitious, isn’t it?

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Yes, but we do not expect more surprises during the build, unlike the creation of the Knowledge Forum, where there were some delays. We have a renovated structure there, and the additional construction work is all about the details. If we can get the money, we’re confident we’ll make the appointment.

What are your main tasks in the future?

I am primarily responsible for networking, integrating the forum into the university and looking for synergies inside and outside the university. The search for special exhibitions will also be subjective. Another goal is to harmonize the three areas under the Knowledge Forum umbrella and to integrate them further in the future.

An exhibition has already been planned there as part of the Documenta in Kassel…

Yes, this is correct. The upcoming ‘Documenta’ will be directed by a team from Indonesia. We are showing an exhibition as part of Documenta, which was started by Alexander Knoll of Bioclimatology. He co-leads a collaborative research center and works frequently in Indonesia.

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You are a person who is also committed to citizen science, collaborates with and participates in the nature conservation societies in Göttingen. Do you stick to it?

But yes. Thomas Oppermann Kulturforum in particular offers great opportunities to open the house to citizens. I can imagine giving lectures there, for example with the Society for Biological Protection. I see citizen science as a big topic and more and more people are also interested in science. The Knowledge Forum is also a great place for that.

You are a biology professor, so how about engaging other colleges?

Anyway, I made it my mission to create science projects for the citizens there. And there are efforts in the university in different departments to do something like this, for example in agriculture and forestry. There are so many fun things going on on campus that I’d like to put together and make the Knowledge Forum the center of scholarly communication.

How could something like this look?

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We also have free areas in the house, where you can, for example, take up a topic that really bothers everyone – wasps. There are many rare species and a few annoying. The project could revolve around documenting dead wasps from window sills in Lower Saxony and generating data from them – while providing information about what the animals are, why they are useful and so on.

At the same time, can students participate in such a project?

Yes, because science communication is becoming increasingly popular among students – as mediator Mai Thi Nguyen Kim explains. Fridays for Future Generation wants to influence decision makers, and students want to know how it works. There are not only exhibitions, but also YouTube videos – a lot of scientific communication is made about them these days. So if student videos can be seen in a gallery, we are building a bridge for those who don’t normally watch YouTube.

The forum recently made headlines with claims of take-off as Concorde and landing as Cessna. What do you think?

We don’t want to be Concorde. It was expensive apart from the accident and the audience was missing. It was not adaptable to the future and full of outdated technology. This is exactly what we don’t want. The criticism arose because the restructuring, that is, the incorporation of the guard into the sub-branch and the replacement of the manager of the Knowledge Forum, came at the same time.

Does this mean that you are not worried about asserting the interests of the forum against SUB?

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No, on the contrary. I’ve already had many conversations with those involved and I’m sure we’ll work well together. This new structure is good for central guarding. From there comes the technical knowledge of the group and from I am the scientific connection. This is a good division of labor. At first it looked like austerity measures, but Allemeyer’s position will be filled again.

So who takes care of the exhibition design?

My job is to think about what special exhibitions to hold, how to use the free space for activities and how to include the Kulturforum. My idea is not to do it alone, but to create a board of diverse experts from groups and niche fields.

Does this mean that you see yourself as a collector and curator of home ideas?

I agree.

What would a security exhibit be for you?

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First of all, of course, we want to open the Museum of Biodiversity as soon as possible. But there is an exhibit from the 10-ton Danish Exhibition House that brings fossils and rock together. I can well imagine this show.

Written by Britta Bielefeld

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