Susanne Boersma

Host Institution

Areas of Research

Work Package 1 “Connectivities built by institutions”
PhD Project 4


Extending and internalising participatory practices: towards an incorporation of multiple cultural memories in ethnographical representations in the museum


Whilst studies have successfully pointed out the necessity for the incorporation of multiple cultural histories in order to become inclusive, few have themselves – without artist intervention, but through internal revisions and alternative approaches – researched and developed best practice of including underrepresented peoples, whilst remaining an authoritative institution. The museum is the ideal environment to develop a revised discourse, as its narrative is most often based on included objects which serve as proof, as a recording and the visibility of memory today.

This research reflects on recent projects that engage or engaged recent forced migrants, using participatory practice to create a novel and more inclusive narrative. Museums, aware of the challenges that come with the representation of ‘the other’, have been taking up various approaches towards participatory curatorial practice. Through such collaborative rather than authoritative practices, museums aim to incorporate multiple cultural memories in the ethnographical representations that constitute the museum discourse. Considering the extent to which a project is participatory (to which contributions are paramount to the project), as well as the sustainability of such projects and how they have been received, this research will focus on three very different case studies: DaHEIM: Glances into fugitive lives at Museum Europäischer Kulturen in Berlin (Germany), PortoM, which is a ‘mobile’ collection of objects left behind by refugees at the island of Lampedusa (Italy), and Museum TakeOver, which was a re-labelling project at New Walk Museum in Leicester (UK). These exhibitions and events will be contextualised within the current local and European context in relation to the refugee crisis and its most current developments. The project focuses on recent forced migrant groups that have settled or are settling in Europe, as this community is most affected by the current debate; the inclusion of these groups’ heritage can benefit the integration process for both the arriving peoples and the permanent residents. Using existing and new methodologies, the project questions to what extent museums should and can empower people from diverse social and cultural background and aims to put forward suggestions on how to adapt museum discourse to represent a more accurate collective cultural memory.




Academic Qualifications

Oct 2018
PhD Candidate at Museum Europäischer Kulturen, Berlin, and the Institute of European Ethnology/Cultural Anthropology, University of Hamburg, Germany

Master of Arts in Art Museum and Gallery Studies, University of Leicester, United Kingdom

Bachelor of Arts in Cultural Studies, University of Amsterdam, the Netherlands, with a minor in Cultural Anthropology at the University of Bologna, Italy

Bachelor of Arts in Theatre Studies, University of Amsterdam, the Netherlands

Work Experience

Nov 2017-Sep 2018
Exhibitions Manager at Atelier Van Lieshout, Rotterdam, the Netherlands

Nov 2016-Nov 2017
Programme Assistant at S1 Artspace, Sheffield, United Kingdom

Oct 2016-Nov 2017
Dutch Language Teaching Assistant at the University of Sheffield, United Kingdom

Jul 2016-Oct 2017
Curator (freelance) at LifeSpace Science Art Research Centre, University of Dundee, United Kingdom

Nov 2015-Jul 2016
Workshop Facilitator at Attenborough Arts Centre, Leicester, United Kingdom

Feb 2015-Nov 2015
Office Assistant, Het Balletorkest (Dutch Ballet Orchestra), Amsterdam, the Netherlands

Nov 2013-May 2014
Marketing & Communication Assistant at ICKamsterdam (Modern Dance Company), Amsterdam, the Netherlands

Interest and Expertise

  • Participation and Community Engagement
  • Contemporary Curatorial Practices
  • Communicating Cultural Heritage
  • Digital Museum Practices
  • (Interpreting) Public Sculpture


Boersma, S. (Ed.): Sculpture Park Hill. A social history of the sculpture park’s location. Sheffield: S1 Artspace, 2017 (non-academic publication)

Recent Conferences and Workshop Presentations

Curator/scientist Q&A with Ratsko Sknepnek, Dundee Science Festival, Dundee, UK, November 2017.                

“Interpreting Public Sculpture”, Presentation at Museum Studies Dissertation Conference, University of Leicester, Leicester, UK, June 2016.


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Coordination and Project Management

University of Hamburg
c/o: Institute of European Ethnology/Cultural Anthropology
Grindelallee 46 | 20146 Hamburg | Germany

+49 (0)40 42838-9940 
POEM Uni Hamburg

Concepts, strategies and media infrastructures for envisioning socially inclusive potential futures of European Societies through culture.

This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under the Marie Skłodowska-Curie grant agreement No. 764859.