Another museum we visited on our trip was the DDR Museum in Berlin. It opened in 2006, and it is rare (in Germany) in that it’s a privately-funded institution. It is a popular destination in the city, and that certainly proved to be the case when we visited. It was difficult to see everything, due in part to the crowding, the relatively small space of the exhibits, and the design of the exhibits themselves.
The primary exhibition spaces, which covered everything from travel throughout Eastern Bloc countries to required military service, relied on cabinets which you had to open to see objects and read about them. Drawers and shelves which could be opened had handles, but even with this visual clue, many skipped them opting to see what few displays were out in the open. Given how limited an area one had to be in to see the opened cabinets, it was a crowded, rushed experience that didn’t seem to connect much with the content itself. There were many in-depth interactives, as well, including “dressing” a dissident and running a factory under the limitations of the DDR. I only had the opportunity to try one of these, but it was an interesting way of engaging with this history.
The recreation of the apartment made more sense to have information presented in this way. Visitors could open kitchen cabinets and drawers under bunk beds to learn more about particular aspects of day-to-day life in East Berlin. Statistics were printed on appliances, and there was a CG timelapse of views outside the windows of the apartment, showing what the neighborhood looked like.
The tone of the labels was biased, sometimes sarcastic. This is interesting given how recently all of this occurred, and how most museums attempt to stay as neutral as possible (sometimes to their detriment). Perhaps this can be attributed to its private funding.
I would be curious to know how this museum is perceived by visitors, both those who experienced life in the DDR and outsiders. I walked away from the experience intrigued by the bias, but somewhat frustrated by the limitations in what I could see.