Dr Ackermann studied History, Oriental Languages & Cultures and History of Science at Frankfurt University (Germany) before becoming curator of European and Islamic scientific instruments and other medieval and early modern collections at the British Museum in 1995. Her research topics include the transfer of knowledge between the Islamic World and Europe, Astrology and Calendars, the role of objects in a wider social and cultural context, and museum studies and leadership.
As head of the British Museum’s experimental gallery Silke project managed exhibitions on topics ranging from Ghanaian textiles and Ethiopian paintings to Japanese photography and pre-Columbian art. During her 16 years at the BM she served in a wide range of managerial and curatorial roles and as part of the BM’s team to develop the new Zayed National Museum in Abu Dhabi. Silke has lectured and published widely on a broad range of topics.
In 2012 Silke left the UK to take up a professorship for Cultural Tourism and Management at the University of Applied Sciences in Schwerin (Germany), where she was later appointed president. In 2013 Silke was elected President of the Scientific Instrument Commission of the International Union of the History and Philosophy of Science; she also serves on a number of scholarly and advisory bodies in the UK and abroad.
In March 2014 Silke returned to the UK to take up the directorship of the Museum of the History of Science in Oxford and a professorial fellowship at Linacre College. She is the first ever female director of any of the Oxford University museums.