Minutes of the annual Worklab general meeting at Arbetets Museum, Norrköping 13th – 14th September 1998
2. Annual report
4. Election of board members
5. Any other business
20 participants were present meeting.
Peter Ludvigsen (PL), chairmann, bid welcome to the participants and informed tham that the treasurer, Annette Vasström, Denmark, and the secretary, Myna Trustram, UK, were absent due to illness.
The chairman mentioned that the seminar “The environments of the industrial age – an asset for the post-industrial society?” which had just taken place in Stockholm and Norrköping, had been very successful.
He gave an account of Worklab’s activities during its first year. So far the organization counts 20 paying members. The first newsletter was published in April 1998 containing organizational information as well as information on the activities at some of the workers’ museums.
The chairman had given information about the new co-operation at a meeting in Washington which resulted in enquiries from similar institutions in the US for membership. In connection with an international museum congress in Australia in October there would be an opportunity to give further information about Worklab and thus possibly extend the circle of members.
Finally PL informed that the Danish Federation of Trade Unions had sponsored this meeting.
As the treasurer was absent, PL presented the accounts which balances with 7,452 DKK.
Nick Mansfield, UK, stressed that Worklab has a special mission, but also ought to co-operate with other organizations.
Preben Sørensen, Denmark, mentioned the importance of exchanging experience, e.g.. via the newsletter, and asked about the relations to the Friends’ Associations of the museums.
The chairman answered that relevant narrow frames should be a prerequisite for co-operating with other organizations. He mentioned that a Spanish society of friends had tried to achieve EU-status.
The report and the accounts were adopted by the assembly. As Bjørn Edvardsen no longer works at the Norwegian Industrial Museum his seat on the board was taken over by Erkki Härö, Finland. The rest of the board was re-elected.
Peter Ludvigsen – chairman
Myna Trustram – secretary
Annette Vasström – treasurer
As far as future work is concerned the chairman informed that a newsletter will be published twice a year and there will be one annual general meeting.
Jürgen Ellemeyer, Germany, invited Worklab to have its meeting in Hamburg in October 1999. This was adopted by the assembly.
14th September 1998
The theme for this part of the annual meeting was “The political situation of worker’s museums”.
Nick Mansfield opened this part of the meeting giving information about the National Museum of Labour History in Manchester. The Museum project was started by left-wing volunteers who collected union banners etc. In 1975 a museum opened in London’s Eastend, mainly attracting party activists. When Labour lost its majority in the district the local government withdrew its subsidies to the museum which then was forced to close down. It was, however, saved by Labour in Manchester who was trying to save a local mechanical museum.
The museum in Manchester opened in 1990 and gradually the Labour Party deposited its archives with it and later the Communist Party’s archives were also deposited here. It is a local tourist attraction and is run professionally by curators etc. In 1994 the second part of the museum was opened in a former pumping station. It is supported financially by various sources, but is still waiting to receive government subsidies. (They got it later! (ed.))
The National Museum of Labour History in Manchester is an independent organization with 15 board members, representing trade unions, authorities and others, but no official Labour representatives. The museum has its own conservation department which among other things preserves 350 union banners and also undertakes external assignments. The acquisition of the pumping station has added to the space of the museum thus enabling artistic events to take place. (See Nick Mansfield’s presentation on p. 27).
Jürgen Ellermeyer told about the Museum der Arbeit in Hamburg which started in 1975 in connection with the closing down of a factory. A Friends’ Association was founded in 1980 and after many years of hard work the museum opened officially in 1997 – and was at the same time officially recognised by the Hamburg town government (with a small majority only).
Prior to this a prolonged debate had taken place concerning the location of the museum and it was eventually decided to place it in a former industrial area, Bamberg, There are great financial problems, e.g. a new administrative system in Hamburg. (Jürgen Ellermeyer explains further development on p. 31).
The Friends’ Association counts 800 members. It is difficult to get financial support from the trade union movement and the museum has no collection of union banners etc. At the moment the museum is showing an exhibition on the Jewish trade union movement. In co-operation with the museum the Friends’ Association publishes a periodical for its members.
Erik Hofrén informed about the Arbetets Museum (Museum of Work) in Norrköping which has problems with its profile – it is becoming more and more like other museums, and there are 3,000 of them. Generally the exhibitions deal with an all round concept of work. It is very difficult to get a non-socialist financial support to the museum as the trade union movement was among the founders, but the government is now represented on the board.
Efforts are being made to establish a network for ca. 1000 Swedish museums which work with the concept of work and workers, and with their own homepage.
Peter Ludvigsen, Denmark, informed about the rebuilding of the museum where they have chosen to build up a collection as well as an exhibition, contrary to other museums who have based their concept on alternating exhibition within labour history, e.g. Sweden. The museum has existed for 15 years. In order to receive government subsidy it is a prerequisite, according to Danish law, that the museum has a collection and a professional leader.
He emphasised that without financial and moral support from the trade union movement the museum would not have existed. Right from the start the museum made an effort to get political support, and it still receives an annual contribution from both the government and the Federation of Trade Unions. But the new museum had to present quick results. The museum therefore made an effort to collect objects for the first exhibition “1950s – an exhibition on everyday life”.
The Workers’ Museum has always been forced to have a businesslike profile, as only 1/2 of the turnover comes from contributions. The rest is from entrance, the running of a restaurant, fees and other cultural arrangements. Historically the museum’s building was the central meeting place for the labour movement in Denmark which has been maintained, e.g. a meeting hall, which like the whole building is now listed as a historical monument.
The museum has been successful in making people conscious of the workers’ part of history and making a visit to The Workers’ Museum is now almost a compulsory part of the programme for schools.
PL stressed the importance of contributing to political decisions – A workers’ museum cannot be apolitical!
Dani Geer and Martin Widmer informed about a container project which was started as a small private firm. The aim is to stretch the importance of technical education at workplaces for apprentices.
The project consists of 30 containers, length 6 meters, weight 3 tons each. The individual exhibitor can present his/her workplace or training via a traditional exhibition or e.g. a video documentation.
They also work with reporting and communication on the Internet and they learn group-work etc. Generally the aim is to put focus on “work” looked upon from a young person’s point of view.
Many questions were made to the papers on the various countries’ experiences and the museums projects, and elaborate answers were given.
On behalf of Worklab Peter Ludvigsen finally thanked for excellent briefing and a positive annual general meeting.
And a special thank to the host: Museum of Work in Norrköping for excellent treatment.
Reporter: Preben Sørensen
Translation: Ulla Ohsten Rasmussen
reprint from Worklab Newsletter 2/1999