This is How Museums Make a Difference

During the semester we have addressed a variety of identities and forms of activism.  One recurring aspect of class is when we try to connect the event of the past with what we as a society are experiencing today.  How can museums be a component for change in a world dealing with so many controversial issues and integrating diverse communities into a museum world usually deemed unreachable?

I recently came across an article about some of Berlin’s top museums using refugees as Arabic speaking guides for other refugees.  As I was reading, all I could think about was the impact that those museums were having on a community who needed the support as they were trying to create a new home in a new country.  All semester we worked to find institutions that were recognizing the diverse communities and acknowledging the history of different activist groups.  The Mutlaka project run by the Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation is a fantastic example of an institution using museums as a place of safety and education for a population of refugees striving to better understand Germany through it’s culture and history.

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Museums run by the Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation located in central Berlin, Germany.

Public events, tours, and employing 19 refugees to give tours to other Syrian, Iraqi, and other Arabic speaking refugees are major components of the project.   “The project, whose name translates into “meeting point”, includes Arabic and Islamic art collections as they are particularly important for people who have lost their homeland and who now find themselves in a foreign land.” [1]  Since the  beginning of the Mutlaka project in December, over 3,000 refugees have participated in the bi-weekly tours of a variety of museums in Berlin.  “The tours have proved so popular that the organizers are looking at expanding the program to include “intercultural workshops, which the Berlin public can also participate in”. [2]

This class has opened my eyes to so many different types of identity and activism.  It has also shown me how much more I have to do and learn in order to create relationships and partnerships with diverse and integral communities.  Museums are crucial in society and can be powerful tools in creating bonds between groups of people.  I can only hope to have the ideas and understanding of the dynamics of the community of the museum I will work in in the future.  In the mean time, reading and researching about how museums create such impactful programs will have to do!




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