The identity of this city is characterised by diverse waves of migration, which left their mark economically, culturally and socially – but which have also been the basis for cultural conflicts. Within the project, which will consist of different workshops and exhibitions, it is intended to identify the determining factors for both the several phases of migration and their contribution to Berlin’s identity.
Through their museums all inhabitants of Berlin should have the opportunity to debate their highly diverse historical backgrounds. Selected information about individual living conditions will illustrate the specific problems with which the inhabitants of the metropolis see themselves confronted, and also how historical processes are shaping the future of their city.
Exhibition in the Museum of European Cultures – Berlin States Museums
Sadat Bilgin, owner of the pizza restaurant Origano, Berlin-Friedrichshain, 2001.
Photographer: Harry Thomaß
1. The Berlin Project Partners
The Association Neighbourhood Museum (Verein Nachbarschaftsmuseum e.V.), which was founded in 1991 by specialists from the educational and museum areas, operates in the tradition of the “New Museology”. It promotes and initiates projects which deal with historical questions and contemporary problems and which involve cooperation between museums and the local population.
The Museum of European Cultures – Berlin States Museums (Museum Europäischer Kulturen – Staatliche Museen zu Berlin), which opened in 1999, has as its aim the identification of European cultural phenomena and their specific ethnic, regional and national aspects, in order to make clear in its exhibitions, publications and events the cultural unity and diversity of Europe.
The German Museum of Technology Berlin (Deutsches Technikmuseum Berlin) is a museum of the cultural history of technology. It presents the different influences on and consequences of technological activity within differing cultural contexts.
The Museums Services Berlin (Museumspädagogischer Dienst Berlin) is an institute attached to the Department of Science and Culture of the Berlin Senate. As a central institute it supports and promotes museum educational activities in Berlin’s public museums.
Cooperation in Berlin:
The aim of the “Migration, Work and Identity” Project in Berlin, is to attract migrants for a collaboration with the museums on the basis of their cultural heritage.
Aspects of their history and their contemporary situation will be represented in the museum to become the basis for a dialogue between different cultures. In the future, the museum should be a place of their history, too. Migrants, their descendants, and organizations will be attracted on a long term basis as matter-of-course visitors and active cooperative partners of the museums. In the long run, this requires an expansion of collective politics as well as of forms of presentation and intervention.
In this context, exchanges took place at the beginning of the project with representatives from different cultures. These contacts were made via cultural establishments, migrant organizations, clubs, senior groups, language courses, and institutions from the fields of education, business, and labour. Together with them we wanted to find out how their interests could be linked with the museum and in which way a cooperation could be formed. In order to discuss different points of view for future cooperation, the Association Neighbourhood Museum organized a workshop in October 2001 within the context of the conference – Zeitzeichen – Leitzeichen .Kommunikation im Museum” (“Time Signals – Guiding Signals. Communication within the Museum”) in cooperation with the Museum of European Cultures, and together with representatives from institutions which work together with migrants since long, e.g. the Workers’ Welfare Services, Berlin-Kreuzberg, the Association To Spiti ). A frame of agreement for subsequent cooperation was established.
The following projects described form a basis for further activities within the Museum of European Cultures and the German Technical Museum in cooperation with the Association Neighbourhood Museum.
2. Activities of the Berlin Partners
Museum of European Cultures: Exhibition 2002
“Heimat Berlin? Photographic Impressions” is for the Museum of European Cultures the first exhibition dedicated to the theme: “Migration”, as exemplified by the situation in Berlin. The general subject matter of the museum, which was founded in 1999, is the investigation of common European cultural phenomena and their specific ethnic, regional and national distinctions, with the local society as a starting point. But who belongs to the society in which he or she lives? The question is not easy to answer. Individual societies are never static. They are changed by innovation and the encounter between different cultures, mentalities and local communities. Developments and contacts of this kind create new constellations, but can at the same time lead to lines of demarcation and to conflict.
Our society as well is the result of cultural contacts – the microcosm Berlin is an eloquent example of this. This city has been a cultural patchwork for many centuries, strongly influenced by migrants from the surrounding area and from farther afield, for example from France, Bohemia, Pomerania and Silesia. This fact was always well known to the long-term residents of Berlin, since their forefathers were usually migrants. Today more than 200 ethnic and religious minorities with a total population of about 440,000 people of non-German origin live in Berlin. That is thirteen percent of the total population. Many of them arrived in the 1960s as so-called guest workers; they also and their children have influenced the life of the city, as have those with other reasons for coming to live here. This fact has not as yet sufficiently become public knowledge. This leads inevitably to two questions: “Will the ‘new’ migrants and their families be accepted as Berliners? And do the migrants feel Berlin to be their home”?
The exhibition invites us to reflect on these questions. Dong-Ha Choe, Alejandro Dhers, Rais Khalilov, Frank Löhmer, Deborah G. Moses-Sanks, Cristina Piza, Nihad-Nino Pušija and Metin Yilmaz are the photographers represented in this exhibition. Their families are from Korea, Argentina, Russia, other regions of Germany, the USA, Costa-Rica, ex-Yugoslavia and Turkey. They themselves have migrated to Berlin. Still closely connected to the culture of their lands of origin, they live and work in the city. With their photographs and descriptive prose in the exhibition they grapple with the idea of a multi-cultural Berlin, illustrating both its public and private aspects with pictorial stories of everyday life.
The photographers provide us with impressions of life on the streets: people in a hurry, people strolling, street musicians, people eating, people celebrating – These different facets of the external appearance of Berlin lead directly on to portraits of women, men and children, of young people and the old, citizens of Berlin with differing origins. These people have talked to the photographers about their relationship to the city, about their problems and desires, about what is foreign to them and what is their own, about contacts and conflicts and they were prepared to allow themselves to be photographed. In so doing they provide us with insights into their lives with scenes from their work, leisure time, family and the practice of their religion, all in answer to the question: how do we see ourselves and how do we see others?
German Technical Museum and the Association Neighbourhood Museum: Workshops
The Workshops took place with the support of the Workers’ Welfare Services, as well as with other different migrant organizations. “Berliners” from various countries participated in the workshops. During these events, the migrants succeeded in finding their own affinity to the contents of the collections and to individual objects within the museum. The main focus was on guided tours throughout the museum and on discussions concerning the objects of the exhibition.
The purpose of the workshops was to promote a platform for migrants and the museum to get to know each other by means of collective efforts in examining technology. While dealing with concrete technical objects, a form of communication developed which was independent from the participants cultural or lingual group; terms were newly created and collectively defined. We all apply technology and we all use technology for the gratification of our own needs. Now and then, however, we use it in different ways. It can be concluded that perspectives on technology are different. The discussions proved however, that despite cultural differences similar opinions also existed concerning technology.
During the guided tours, our visitors were mostly confronted with the forerunners of European developments in technology. Although these were well-known and unfamiliar to them at the same time, they were not always able to relate the exhibited technology to their homeland. The elderly migrants felt that the history of the exhibited technology was a part of their own personal story. On the one hand, it connected them with their own country of origin, and on the other hand with their life in Germany. Often, they first learned about older technology here in Germany. Occasionally they had to work here with machines which were older than in their homeland. For “first generation” migrants, it was interesting to again recognize objects in the museum which were related to their vocational life, especially in the fields of printing and textile technology. Technical objects took on a special importance as a media for recollection. Objects provided opportunities for conversations which included their own biographies no matter whether the participants had directly dealt with those objects or not. The objects belonged to the visitors’ realm of experience and knowledge. On the contrary, it was often unfamiliar to retrace technical developmental processes. Participants could compare the development of the bicycle, which was especially impressive concerning the changes in its development, with their own other cultural experiences.
On the basis of the results of the workshops in the German Technical Museum, a weekend in October 2002 was organized with the title “What does it have to do with me? – Bu beni neden ilgilendirir?”. Different generations of Turkish speaking migrants introduced their own point of view of the museum and its objects to the visitors. They also took on the tasks of the supervisory staff. These events have become part of the standard programme of the German Technical Museum. In the future, there will be multicultural and multilingual programmes every year.
3. The Berlin Platform: An initiative for the better understanding of migrants and other inhabitants of the city
The idea and its realisation
The Berlin Platform has been set up by the above named four museum’s institutions as part of the European project “Migration, Work and Identity”. It has as its goal the long-term establishment of the EU project in Berlin through the initiation of further workshops, documentations, conferences and exhibitions, whose results will be evaluated in the light of new questions concerning the relationship between museums and “communities”. The Berlin Platform aims above all to promote understanding and tolerance between the various groups of different cultural origin in Berlin through the communication of information about the historical background of the migrant groups. The museums will initiate a dialogue on the interaction between individuals and their environment. A global view of the metropolis Berlin will also lead to a productive dialogue at an international level.
The museum as a place for debate and communication
Through their museums all inhabitants of Berlin should have the opportunity to debate their highly diverse historical backgrounds. In a double sense, the museum is suitable for the presentation of both “the Self and the Other”. It collects objects that symbolize the identity of migrants: both as mementos of the life in their countries of origin and of their life and experience in exile. It also offers migrants their own approach to the culture of the land in which they now live, through an analysis of the cultural origins of its inhabitants. An unbiased treatment of objects and themes offers repeated opportunities for communication, mutual understanding and personal contacts. The aim is to present the history of the migrants and their present situation and hopes for the future in such a way that they can be understood and emotionally experienced by other groups within the population. Through exhibitions and educational programmes, museums can create forums for a transnational exchange of experience within the field of “Migration, Work and Identity”. Cultural objects as symbols for the construction of ethnic, national or also religious identity are particularly important here.
The Berlin Platform has been conceived as a basis for cooperation and discussion between all institutions for research, education, vocational training and culture that are involved in the subject of migration concerning Berlin. Further business, social, and cultural institutions are invited to join and to develop the Berlin Platform in order to improve mutual understanding between all groups of different cultural origin and strata within society.
Nachbarschaftsmuseum (Neighbourhood Museum) Hasenheide 92 D – 10967 Berlin, Germany
Contact: Rita Klages
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Museumspädagogischer Dienst Berlin (Museum Services Berlin)
Telephone (+49) 30 283 97 -481, email@example.com Deutsches Technikmuseum (German Museum of Technology)
Telephone (+49) 30 90 254-189, firstname.lastname@example.org www.dtmb.de/index.htmlMuseum Europäischer Kulturen (Museum of European Cultures) Staatliche Museen zu Berlin – Preussischer Kulturbesitz
Telephone (+49) 30 839 01 284, email@example.com