Ariane Karbe

Research area

'Structure is like gravity: It is the glue that holds the story in place; it is the base, the foundation, the spine, the skeleton of the story.' Syd Field

The term 'narrative' has become quite prominent over the last years to describe exhibitions. They are no longer understood as fixed arrangements of objects in which knowledge is inherent, but as flexible processes where curators create meaning from their particular point of view. The analogies with 'stories' which are told from a narrator with a certain perspective and which elements, the words, can be considered as signs open to different interpretations are striking. But is there no danger to lose sight of the differences between exhibition narratives and narratives in other media? Exhibitions are a medium with its own specific characteristics and it is important to recognise their specific essence to tap their full potential.

Thus is the basic idea of my PhD project. In particular, my research will explore how far dramatic devices used for script writing can be applied to create cultural historical exhibitions. To find answers to this question I focus on two important features of stories: first, the causal connections between the single events and, second, the fact that the reader/spectator never knows everything, until the end. In both cases suspense is created which pulls the reader/spectator through the story. My assumption is that the thirst for knowledge of exhibition visitors can be supported by creating suspense, and we, as curators can learn from classical Hollywood movies as the genre of narratives which carry these dramatic devices to extremes.

Academic/career achievements

My background is social and cultural anthropology and comparative literature. I have worked for nearly 20 years as a curator for cultural historical exhibitions and absolved the training as a scriptwriter at the Film School Hamburg-Berlin. Most recently, I was a fellow at the museum academy Museion21.

I share my ideas about curating at my personal blog


Von Hollywood lernen? Why not! Das dramaturgische Mittel des "Säens und Erntens" in der Ausstellungsarbeit. In: Stapferhaus Lenzburg: Sibylle Lichtensteiger, Aline Minder, Detlef Vögeli (Hg.): Dramaturgie in der Ausstellung. Begriffe und Konzepte für die Praxis. Bielefeld 2014, S. 68-79

[2014. Learning from Hollywood? Why not! The dramaturgic mean "Planting and Payoff" in exhibition work. In: Stapferhaus Lenzburg: Sibylle Lichtensteiger, Aline Minder, Detlef Vögeli, eds. Dramaturgy in the exhibition. Terms and concepts for practice. Bielefeld, pp. 68-79]


Review: Hanak-Lettner, Werner: Die Ausstellung als Drama. Wie das Museum aus dem Theater entstand. Bielefeld 2011, in: H-Soz-u-Kult, 29.03.2013,


Exhibition Review: Ingmar Bergman. Truth and Lies / Ausstellungs-Rezension zu: Ingmar Bergman. Von Lüge und Wahrheit 27.01.2011-29.05.2011, Deutsche Kinemathek, in: H-Soz-u-Kult, 02.05.2011,


„Ich sehe eben anders.“ Der Cloppenburger Fotograf Helmut Korth.  In: Bernd Küster (Hg.): „Ich sehe eben anders“ – Fotografie in Nordwestdeutschland im 20. Jahrhundert. Bremen 2006, S.. 180-198.

[2006. „I see it just different.“ The Cloppenburg Photographer Helmut Korth. In: Bernd Küster, ed. „I see it just different“ – Photography in Northwestern Germany in the 20th Century. Bremen, pp. 180-198.]


Die Geschichte einer Freundschaft. Der Schriftsteller Hans Christian Andersen besucht Oldenburg. In: Oldenburgische Landschaft (Hg.): Kulturland Oldenburg 1/2006, S. 32-35.

[2006. The History of a Friendship. The Writer Hans Christian Andersen visits Oldenburg. Kulturland Oldenburg, 1, pp. 32-35.]


Die ehemaligen Bewohner von Dadow nach 1945: Lebens- und Erinnerungsräume. (Byli mieszkańcy Dadow po 1945 roku – przestrzenie życia i wspomnień.) (with Kurt Dröge) In: Muzeum Narodowe w Szczecinie (Hg.): Ojczyzna wielu. (Die Heimat vieler). Szczecin 2004, S. 35-41.

[2004. The former Inhabitants of Dadow after 1945: Spaces for living and for recollecting. (with Kurt Dröge). In: Muzeum Narodow w Szczecinie, ed. Ojczyzna wielu. (Home of many). Szczecin, pp. 35-41.]


„Damit das nicht verloren geht...“ Volkstanzgruppen und die Weizackertracht. In: Kurt Dröge (Hg.): Die pommersche Weizackertracht in Deutschland und Polen. Kritik der historisch-ostdeutschen Trachtenpflege. Oldenburg 2004.

[2004. „So it will not get lost...“ Square dancing chorus and the Weizacker traditional dress. In: Kurt Dröge, ed. The Pomeranian Weizacker traditional dress. Criticism of the historical-Eastgerman Preservation of Traditional Costumes. [e-book] Oldenburg. Available at:


Wie aus großen Menschen Riesen werden – Zu den Inszenierungsstrategien von Abnormitätenschauen. In: Karl-Heinz Ziessow u. Uwe Meiners (Hg.): „Zur Schau gestellt. Ritual und Spektakel im ländlichen Raum“. Cloppenburg 2003, S. 142-160.

[2003. How big humans become giants – Staging strategies of Freakshows. In: Ziessow, Karl-Heinz & Meiners, Uwe, eds. Displayed. Ritual and Spectacle in the Rural Area. Cloppenburg, pp. 142-160.]

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