Above: The DDR Museum Entrance. Photo: GetYourGuide
I have this time decided to focus on a museum in Berlin, Germany that I had the pleasure of visiting in 2017. It has since held onto a spot in my favourites, and apparently many other people’s, having been nominated for the European museum of the year award and established as the most popular museum with tourists. The DDR museum is an interesting and eye-opening experience for all.
The DDR Museum is located in central Berlin, opposite the cathedral with easy access to bus routes and the underground at Alexanderplatz. Unusually for Germany, It is a privately owned museum, and focuses on educating visitors about the ins and outs, the good and the bad of living in East Berlin during the period of the Deutsche Demokratische Republik (DDR).
The Permanent exhibition is divided into three main sections: public life, state and ideology, and life in a tower block. Personally, I think this works really well to give visitors a full idea and awareness of life being surveyed, but also as the surveyor. The museum prides itself on being incredibly interactive and this is definitely true; you could spend hours opening every nook and cranny and never tire, and information cards are in both German and English making it a very popular tourist destination as well.
As you make your way around the museum you come across countless interactive exhibits. There is an interrogation room and prison cell that provides you with a taste of what it would be like to get on the wrong side of the law living in the DDR. The low lights, minimal furniture and amenities and sparse décor creates a tense and sombre atmosphere, especially when compared to the replica tower block apartment. The apartment feels so immersive and comprises of a bedroom, kitchen, living room and more. When you walk into this section of the museum, a sense of walking into somebody else’s house washes through you. The living room has a sofa, table and chairs and a television all of which you can sit on and interact with. The TV channel can be changed to compare programmes from West Berlin and East Berlin that were aired on the same day and gives an idea of the differences of living in a communist environment blocked off from the rest of the western world. There are countless draws and cupboards to open and explore, covering a vast range of topics from everyday groceries, diet, amenities, leisure activities, chores, and gender roles, and that’s just to name a few. You’ll also come across an original Trabant P601 car, during your adventures around the museum, which you can get inside and interact with a simulated drive around the streets of East Berlin.
These few things barely scratch the surface of what this museum has to offer, which means you really get your money’s worth, particularly if you’re eager to explore everything to the smallest degree. It can definitely be a little busy, particularly in the summer months and school holidays, meaning sometimes there is a slight wait before getting to have a go with some of the more interactive elements of the display, but it is definitely worth it. The diverse exhibits and displays make it so engaging for every member of the family, I can imagine younger children loving the freedom of exploring and learning through touch and experience, whilst Adults can enjoy how immersive it can be and the abundance of information provided.
My current conservation project is an M42 German Military helmet and so much of my focus is tailored towards the Second World War itself, and I think this same focus is carried out in school education, it can be easy to forget that so much more happened in Germany’s history after the end of the war. This Museum lets that information and story be uncovered in the best possible way, whilst tastefully broaching hard and complex topics of state control and abuse of power.
Adults €9.80/Concessions €6/Online from €5.50/Under 6 free of charge
Monday to Sunday, 9.00 – 21.00, 365 days a year
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Seren Kitchener is a third-year undergraduate student studying Conservation of Objects in Museums and Archaeology at Cardiff University. She has always been a keen lover of heritage, particularly that of British archaeology and prehistory, and spends most of her free time wandering around museums and National Trust properties. Her conservation experience includes placement opportunities at the Swindon and Wiltshire History Centre, working in the conservation department there, and working on various projects that come through the labs and stores of Cardiff University. Seren can be found on Twitter @SerenKitch11