Thursday, September 8, 2011

Memories of the visit to the Schwules Museum, Berlin

I have been to Berlin many times but this summer, when I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to go back I wanted to do all the things I had never done there before.

After speaking to others who share my fondness for Berlin, the Schwules Museum was recommended for a visit.  Some of the CLGA’s archivists have visited and formed friendships with Schwules archivists over the years so I worked the visit into my brief time in Berlin.
Schwules was founded by three men, two of whom wanted to build a museum and collect and show “gay” art.  The other founder was interested in archives and set out to build an archives attached to the museum.  As a result the collection, which is housed in a 4 storey building contains one floor of a library (in which the audio visual collection is held), and archival materials, one floor that serves as the museum and exhibition space and two floors that house the massive art and poster collection.

The museum entry fees (5 for the exhibit I saw) funds the whole organization almost entirely and is staffed by volunteers.  There is a full-time Archivist and General Manager (who also produces the exhibitions), though part-time staffing for the archives is also provided by the Berlin version of work-fare (one Euro jobs) and a host of volunteers and practicum students.  Some funding is provided by the Berlin government and this has been a reasonably stable source of funding for the archives.
I was very interested to learn that there is no electronic database for the archival holdings, only excel sheets and some very detailed finding aids which seemed very useful.  The art collection is still largely uncatalogued but they are working on this.
oversized archival materials
During my visit I also became aware of the SpinnbodenArchives a few blocks away which is the lesbian archives.  Unfortunately I wasn’t able to make it there in my brief time in Berlin, but it was interesting to hear how the two archives have begun to work together.  The dream is to someday have a single building which could house both archives in different wings and house the entire story of the queer communities of Berlin in one place without dissolving either original archival collection.  Currently the Schwules archives collects items from the trans and lesbian communities as an interim solution and meets with the Spinnboden Archives regularly looking for opportunities to collaborate or find funding for a permanent home together.

It was interesting to see how another community archives has formed, so much in common with the CLGA but also taking a much different approach to management of the collection, staffing, access and fundraising.  Definitely worth a visit if you
find yourself in the vicinity of Kreuzberg but check the website for hours before going.

standard sized archival materials

The view from the Archives
entrance to Archives (rear of building)

Queer fonds
time line in the library

No comments:

Post a Comment