Statistics and Sticky Notes

On Identifying Museum Visitors and What Moves Them

A young woman with a bouquet of flowers

The ten-millionth visitor Paula Konga in November 2015 © Jewish Museum Berlin, photo: Svea Pietschmann

Gleeful excitement in the museum lobby, for we are greeting our ten-millionth visitor since the opening in 2001, and we are all ears. “It’s my day off and I want to take the opportunity to revisit the permanent exhibition,” the 33-year-old Berliner Paula Konga tells us. An architect by profession, she is particularly interested in Daniel Libeskind’s design of the museum. “The building is well worth visiting more than once, also for Berliners.” No sooner have we handed over a bouquet of flowers and a one-year-membership in the Friends of the Jewish Museum Berlin Association than our guest of honor vanishes into the ramified spaces of the Libeskind Building (further information about the Libeskind Building can be found on our website).

Next, a group of Italian schoolchildren pushes past me, another museum visitor asks me to switch his audio guide to French, and a group of British teenagers mills about in search of a young man in a red cap. The seething mass sets me thinking: What actually moves you here, in the Jewish Museum Berlin?  continue reading

Fascinating Family History

A Look at the Radzewski Family Photo Collection

We all have family: father, mother, children, grandchildren, grandparents, aunts, uncles, or just relatives casually come across at family reunions or known from photos. “The uncle, living abroad, with the daughter and the grandchildren – don’t you remember him?” We’ve all heard that.

Black and white photo of a girl and a woman at a door

The donor, Vera de Jong with her mother, Meta Krotoschiner in front of their home in Santiago, Chile, in 1952, following immigration © Jewish Museum Berlin, gift of Vera de Jong, née Krotoschiner-Radzewski

What happens when there’s no one to keep telling these stories? Only a photo of these people remain, if you’re lucky, sometimes a postcard that says nothing. This isn’t only the case in our private lives. As museum workers, we confront this challenge on a daily basis, especially when inventorying collections of donors’ family photographs. Each photo poses the same questions: Where was this? Who were these people – friends or relatives? What’s the story behind the image?

Fortunately we have help. Along with the photographs, donors provide and entrust us with their memories. Vera de Jong, born Krotoschiner-Radzewski, is one such example. Last year she gave our museum some 200 family photos (further information about the Photographic Collection on our website). As an academic trainee, it was then my task to inventory this collection and research its history. I was immediately taken by these charming images and, while researching them, understood their historical value, helping us uncover more than a century of family history.  continue reading

Shared Roleplay, Undermined Certainties, Red Rooms and Potato Peelers

A Conversation about the Exhibition “Obedience”

The exhibition “Obedience. An Installation in 15 Rooms by Saskia Boddeke & Peter Greenaway,” which has just been extended for two months, prompts extremely varied visitor responses. Atalya Laufer and Marc Wrasse regularly give guided tours of the exhibition. They talked to me recently about the experiences they’ve had, how they see the exhibition, and what they believe is at the root of visitors’ reactions.

Mirjam Wenzel: What form do your guided tours of the exhibition take?

A female visitor looking at a book, in the background other visitors

Visitor in the “Golden Room” with manuscripts of the three monotheistic religions © Jewish Museum Berlin, photo: Jule Roehr

Marc Wrasse: We don’t so much guide visitors as accompany them on a three-step journey of discovery. We welcome the group and give a brief introductory talk, during which we point out that the Museum commissioned two artists to create the exhibition. Then, together with the visitors, we read aloud the relevant passage of the Bible—incidentally, the translation by Moses Mendelsohn—before leaving them to the exhibition.

Atalya Laufer: I prefer to use the translation by Martin Buber and Franz Rosenzweig.

Marc: But you too use roleplay, do you not, when reading the Bible story? That way, we make it clear that we want to explore the exhibition with our visitors and enjoy a shared experience.  continue reading