Immigration and Integration in German Museums

Friday, November 14, 2014
Paige Newhouse

I researched how German museums present immigration and integration and how this impacts public understanding.  I visited around thirty museums and memorials and interviewed museum curators, whose museums specifically focused on migrants or oppressed groups, and migration experts. 

One thing I found compelling is the difference in the extent that nationally funded museums present immigration and migration from district-funded and/or nonprofit museums.  While nationally funded museums present migration and integration as separate from German history and immigrants as distinct from ethnic Germans, district funded and/or nonprofit museums show immigrants as part of the community or a component of society.

I learned from this research that presentation is everything.  Every aspect, every minute detail of the exhibit or museum affects the viewer as the set-up is intentional and deliberate.  Museum curators’ bias are subtly displayed through objects, design, space and decorations, and to interpret the theme or the message presented, historians must closely analyze the physical space and consider how it presents ideas and bias.

The photo above is of Museum Neukölln’s display cases from its permanent exhibit.  Objects are randomly placed to gain the viewer’s attention and to arouse his or her curiosity.  There are additional photos in the gallery.