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Conveying conflicting scientific topics in exhibitions: Development and optimization of an exhibition prototype and a museum-related wiki

Working groupRealistic Depictions Lab
Project description

The aim of this DFG knowledge transfer project was to design and implement a prototypical exhibition space in the Deutsches Museum on the basis of empirical evidence, where museum visitors can encounter conflicting information on a current science topic. In addition, an evidence-based, practice-oriented wiki on the subject of presenting conflicting information in museums and exhibitions was created as part of the project (

The empirical evidence was based on four sources: Firstly, on the international state-of-the-art of psychologically oriented visitor research and research on the cognitive processing of conflicting information. Secondly, on the results of two previous projects and other museum-related projects. Thirdly, a survey of needs was carried out to clarify how curators and exhibition makers deal with the presentation of conflicting topics. In addition, visitors to the Deutsches Museum were asked about their prior knowledge, attitudes, and expectations with regard to the subject of the exhibition.

Finally, in a series of empirical studies, the motivational and cognitive effects on visitors of different ways of presenting conflicting information were analyzed and compared using design variations. In the first design study, neutral and conflict-emphasizing captions were systematically varied. It was found that the exhibition visit led to an increase in thematic interest, an increase in knowledge and a more balanced repertoire of arguments compared to a control group that did not visit the exhibition. However, the variation of the captions had no significant influence. In the second study, photos of exhibits, real exhibits to look at and real exhibits to look at and touch were compared. Among other things, it was shown that the haptic exploration of the exhibits led to an improvement in the recall of the exhibition content and that the visitors perceived greater freedom of choice. The two design studies on information personalization showed, among other things, that the type of personalization had an influence on the selection of interview texts listened to in full.
In close cooperation with the Technical University of Munich, the Deutsches Museum in Munich, and the Institut für Museumsforschung in Berlin, these studies were used to create the exhibition area on meat production as part of the Agriculture and Food exhibition, which opened in 2022.


Technical University of Munich

Deutsches Museum München

Institut für Museumsforschung Berlin


Novak, M., Gramser, S., Köster, S., Ceseña, F., Gerber‐Hirt, S., Schwan, S., & Lewalter, D. (2024). Presenting a socio‐scientific issue in a science and technology museum: Effects on interest, knowledge and argument repertoire. Science Education, 108(1), 107-122. Open Access

Novak, M., Phelan, S., Lewalter, D., & Schwan, S. (2020). There is more to touch than meets the eye: haptic exploration in a science museum. International Journal of Science Education, 42(18), 3026-3048.


Prof. Dr. Stephan Schwan Prof. Dr. Stephan Schwan
Tel.: +49 7071 979-228