How do we want to live? And what challenges are we facing in the present? We can either wait for the future – or we can confront it now.
It is undeniable that we will have major challenges to overcome in the future. Nevertheless, we are living in times in which the future is considered to be shapeable. In past eras, this was different: until well into the 20th century, many people regarded the future as something unalterable rolling towards them, something which, at best, they could hope to endure. Today, by contrast, many creative minds are engaged in coming up with a multitude of ideas and visions; and the desire of ordinary citizens to have a say and participate is huge. The problem is that we often find ourselves talking at cross purposes and hiding away in our own mental bunkers, unaware of the brilliant ideas that others might have – ideas that are worth sharing. After all, at this point, we cannot know which of the many possible futures will ultimately become part of our actual future.
Getting to know what is new, questioning the familiar and picking up on stimuli that lead to action: Futurium allows its visitors a glimpse into the world of tomorrow. Science and culture, politics, business and society come together here – in the exhibition and in experiments, in discussions and in concerts, in workshops and in debates. Our “House of Futures”, which opened in September 2019, is a place where visitors can inform themselves about different concepts, ideas and visions of the future, where they can exchange ideas and argue about them, where they can approach the topics of the future in a way that is both experimental and playful.
Under a single roof, Futurium houses an exhibition with its vivid scenarios in three “thinking spaces” (Nature, Human, Technology), the Lab for experimenting and trying things out, and the Forum for debates and dialogues in various formats. The Digital Futurium communicates contents of all three programmatic pillars and also sets its own accents.
by David von Becker
Fostering, practising and exercising democratic principles, while making individuals realise the extent of their potential – this is at the heart of Futurium’s work. To this end, it provides space for discussion and pluralistic ideas. Moreover, Futurium wants to empower and enlighten its visitors – and, indeed, all members of society – in the hope of lessening feelings of anxiety about the future by means of exposing its visitors to concrete ideas, technologies, the results of scientific research, and even utopias, in an educational yet artistic way. In doing so, Futurium is by no means setting itself up as a “centre for rose-tinted glasses”: it draws attention to both the opportunities and the risks of potential future developments and thus wants to initiate an open dialogue across the boundaries of sectors and disciplines.
In its current form, Futurium is the first museum of its kind in Europe, although various other projects are either in the making or have already been launched elsewhere – for instance, the Museum of the Future in Nuremberg (Deutsches Museum Nürnberg). Outside of Europe, there are already some pioneering institutions such as the Museu do Amanhã in Rio de Janeiro and the Miraikan in Tokyo. Futurium has managed to establish intensive contact with these and other international institutions that deal with questions of the future.
Just recently, Futurium was awarded the European Luigi Micheletti Award 2020/2021. In its reasoning, the jury emphasised that Futurium presented “the great challenges of the future in a stunning and ideologically neutral way” and concluded that every country should “have its own Futurium”. The prize is considered to be one of the most prestigious European awards for innovative museums in the fields of science and technology.
Challenges and achievements
during the Coronavirus pandemic
Especially for an institution like Futurium, which is interactive and participatory in all pillars of its programme, the COVID-19 pandemic has been quite challenging. In pre-COVID times, there was little distance, neither between visitors and exhibits, nor among visitors themselves, who often got into conversation with each other about issues of the future. However, Futurium quickly adapted to the “new normal” and has been received well by the public despite the temporary restrictions imposed by COVID-19: in 2021, the House of Futures welcomed about 200,000 visitors and its digital offerings received millions of clicks.
During the pandemic, new digital formats were created at short notice, for instance a discussion series with opinion leaders from various parts of society who shared the impact of COVID-19 on their fields of expertise.
Futurium Bioökonomie_David von Becker
Project “On the Move” (Futures of Mobility)
It is our aim to continuously develop our content and themes. This applies to all pillars of our programme, including our permanent exhibition, which we have designed as a “living exhibition”. Mobility, introduced in late 2021, was the first new theme to be added to the exhibition since Futurium’s opening. From the very beginning, we had planned not to limit our thoughts on mobility just to infrastructures and means of transport. So we moved from the obvious question of “How are we going to be moving around?” to questions that touch on our very understanding of ourselves as human beings. Questions like “Why do we actually want to move around?” or “What will limit our movements?”. Mobility is a basic human need that permeates all areas of life. And it is interwoven closely with the major issues of the future that we need to face globally – such as the fight against climate change.
Within the three “thinking spaces” of our exhibition we explore many different approaches and views on mobility.
In the thinking space Human, we highlight different aspects of human mobilities. The search for better living conditions or work opportunities or love, the need to visit relatives scattered around the world, the flight from war, violence, hunger and the consequences of climate change – all these are causes of human mobility. The countries that we come from and the ones to which we want to go, our personal financial possibilities, and our own social status all determine the mobility opportunities possessed by each of us. This is often unfair. For even in a supposedly globalised world, new borders are constantly being erected, and passport and visa requirements are being tightened.
Transport, one of the big topics of the future, has made its way into the thinking space Technology and addresses the question of how we can transform traffic in our cities, in the countryside, and to destinations far away in a manner that is not only climate-neutral but also equitable. Researchers agree that by 2050 transport must be free from fossil fuels. Since new technologies will bring about lots of changes in this area, we are interested in questions such as: how will fossil-free transport affect our everyday lives and our involvement in communal activities? And how can we achieve the transition to fossil-free transport in a way that is socially fair? The fact that transport is always tied up with questions of social justice is particularly noticeable when it comes to long-distance travel. After all, how many people really have the opportunity to fly long-distance? And generally: which values will be shaping our culture of travel in the future?
As of 2022, the thinking space Nature will explore how we humans influence the mobility of other living beings. Our heavy encroachment on nature – through farming, urban development or the extraction of raw materials – has far-reaching consequences: some animal species are put to flight as their habitats are circumscribed or even destroyed. Other living beings, in turn, are being dispersed as a result of the climate change caused by us humans: they descend upon new habitats and use changing living conditions to their advantage. This can rapidly change the composition and function of entire ecosystems and allow pathogens to spread more easily. Clearly, an important solution to this is to improve the conservation of nature. And overall, we must ask ourselves: what are we willing to change to give nature more space?
Like the exhibition, the analogue and digital events programme in our Forum reflects our broad understanding of mobility. For example, we developed a YouTube series in which we invite scientists every month to discuss topics ranging from the transport revolution to the mobility of knowledge and ideas.
Our Futurium Lab, by contrast, concentrates its engagement with mobility on a single area, namely urban mobility. Here our visitors are invited upfront to participate – because we think the topic of the sustainable development of mobility in cities (and in the countryside, too, of course) lends itself particularly well to this type of approach. After all, it is ultimately a matter of improving our quality of life – and that is something that concerns us all.
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