The forecourt is still being paved, and opposite the entrance the unity monument is only slowly growing out of the historic ground. The question always arises when you stand in front of the huge building: who actually owns the Humboldt Forum?

The Berlin Palace Friends’ Association has collected over 100 million euros in donations for the reconstruction of the Prussian facades and acts as a kind of ideal owner and guardian of sacred tradition. The association still refuses to give out the names of the donors, although there are reasonable suspicions that supporters of right-wing extremist views are among them.

In this context, the plaque in honor of Ehrhardt Bödecker, a deceased major donor to the Humboldt Forum, who had made anti-Semitic comments, was removed from the building. The reactionary castle association with the managing director Wilhelm von Boddien and the chairman Richard Schröder bricks and insults critics. His “Berliner Extrablatt” may not be distributed in the foyer of the Humboldt Forum.

A lot is going on. On September 17, further exhibition areas will be opened on the third and fourth floors of the Humboldt Forum. They are dedicated to the American Hemisphere and Central Asia. On paper, this completes the collections three years after Alexander von Humboldt’s 250th birthday.

According to his inner understanding, the Humboldt Forum is a work in progress, an open house, a learning institution, despite the cross and dome and all the historical ballast. The recently opened special exhibition “Songlines” shows this with impressive clarity. Hartmut Dorgerloh, general manager of the Humboldt Forum, took it over from Canberra, the capital of Australia. There the project was developed by members of indigenous communities.

The presentation of the artworks and the depiction of the Aboriginal culture contrast with the traditional presentation in the collections of the State Museums. If you now visit both “Australia”, the difference becomes noticeable. And the question of who owns the forum immediately refers to the origin and acquisition of the pieces in the Ethnological Museum.

Decolonization is not an easy exercise. It started late in Berlin. There are so many possibilities here. The exhibition about Paul Gauguin and his colonial background in the Old National Gallery, next to it the Brücke Museum with the thoroughly painful research “Kirchner and Nolde. Expressionism and Colonialism” – together with the South Sea artefacts from the German imperial era in the Humboldt Forum, an exemplary, comprehensive history could have been created. The Berlin institutions have not learned to tackle the big issues together. That’s not easy, even under the umbrella of the Humboldt Forum.

With construction costs of a good 680 million euros, the Humboldt Forum is a public building of the federal government and the state of Berlin. It doesn’t get any bigger in this country. This Thursday, the new board of trustees will be formed with the new chairwoman Claudia Roth and fifteen members. The Green Minister of State for Culture and Media has announced several times, also in an interview with the Tagesspiegel, that she wants to take intensive care of the Humboldt Forum’s appearance. “Well, that’s where I want to go,” she said in relation to the cross on the dome, and about the donation affair she said: “It has to be transparent, there’s no other way.” is called so beautiful.

All the questions and complexes come together in the Humboldt Forum. It is a culmination of the culture industry, in terms of content and organization. However, the Humboldt Forum still has no budget for the coming year. In addition, parts of the Wilhelmine facade decorations – intended by architect Franco Stella – have not yet been installed. There is also a need for discussion.