Finally, the time had come during the Long Night of the Museums on August 27th, 2016: The DDR Museum opened the doors to the new exhibition part which had been developed and planned for the past 1 ½ years.
A lot of loving attention to detail as well as scientific research work has been put into the WBS70-based 3-room-apartment by the curatorial team. The apartment is very close to authentic, whereas the visitor can discover information on the private everyday life in the GDR in shelves, drawers and behind cabinet doors.
With the help of this third part of our exhibition, an educational separation of the everyday life in the GDR is meant to be communicated: Private life – Politics – Public. This separation is, of course, due to the museum-specific pedagogical concept – everyday life in Socialism was of course not that selective, for there were quite a few overlaps. This can be seen in a number of sections of the new exhibition.
Before our visitors can use the front door, they are able to eavesdrop the conversations which are taking place in the apartment’s rooms via headphones as well as learn about the work of the Stasi (State security service). Despite the fact that acoustic surveillance of private property, the so-called “Task B”, was not too commonly performed, the curators considered informing the visitors about it as vital nonetheless. The goal is to communicate the oppressive feeling of not being able to talk freely even within the own apartment.
A typical house entrance leads the way to an elevator which is simulating a ride into the 5th floor of a Plattenbau. While waiting for the elevator, the visitor can learn about different housing forms in the GDR by playing the so-called “Ringing game”. At the end of the elevator ride the visitor will enter an authentically furnished 3-room-apartment with a layout based on the WBS70 apartment series which could be found in industrialized apartment blocks in the GDR. The living room is the largest room and is connected to the kitchen via a service hatch. Here one can take a seat at the dining table or on the couch and select either a East or West German TV show on the multitouch-screen which is hidden in the so-called “Mufuti” (German abbreviation for multifunctional table). The Carat wall unit holds information about the difficulties of finding a suitable place to live as well as about the opportunities to bypass the housing office. Other topics in this room are parties and celebrations, drug abuse, basic and luxury goods, parlor games as well as the consumption of West German television.
The kitchen offers information about nutrition, food as well as storage habits in the GDR. One can also discover some culinary inspiration by choosing one of many authentic recipes which one can print with the digital recipe printer and take home. Another special highlight: The digital fridge. Behind a transparent touchscreen the visitor can choose different products in order to learn about eating habits in the GDR.
The topic of equal rights for women has been incorporated in quite a provocative manner. The “equal rights game” lets you test your knowledge on the topic.
The plumbing unit covers the topics health and hygiene. A screen which can be found in the washing machine holds information on the health system. The “hygiene game” tells visitors about the forms of health education in the GDR. The bathroom is furnished with the original sanitary accessories from a WBS70 industrialized apartment block in Dessau.
The way along the hall leads to the parent’s bedroom. The double bed – neatly arranged with a bedcover – is equipped with a projection which offers statistics about the most intimate things: The first time of having sex, frequency of sexual intercourse or cheating habits in both East and West Germany.
Other topics are love, marriage and raising children and can be found within the many drawers of the furniture in the room.
While the bed covers the topic of taking off one’s clothes, the closet deals with putting on different types of clothing. A screen lets you browse different fashion magazines and you can touch samples of typical GDR fabrics such as Dederon or Wolpryla. But there’s even more! A software which was developed specifically for the DDR Museum offers visitors the possibility to try on authentic clothes and take a look at themselves in a digital mirror. You can also take a very special selfie wearing authentic clothes from the GDR.
At the end of the hall, the visitor can enter the world of children and adolescents in the GDR. The colorful room with the red furniture and the sunflower wallpaper, which was chosen by the Facebook community of the museum, offers quite a lot of topics. Next to the original bunk bed there is the pioneer’s blouse with scarf which has to be knotted correctly by the visitor. A cupboard full of toys offers the visitors to browse children’s books via a touchscreen as well as discover popular companions such as Pittiplatsch and the Sandmännchen in a puppet theater. The DDR Museum is a museum for the entire family: Our youngest visitors can be entertained whith the help of modern exhibition technology by watching the “kleiner Muck”.
The wall unit across the room tells the visitor about the fact that, in the GDR, a teenager had to take political decisions at a very early stage. The games “The way into life” as well as the nine shelves are covering this interesting topic.
Furthermore, there are other topics communicated within the many other shelves of the wall unit such as hobbies of a young person in the GDR. A diorama showing a Bruce Springsteen concert in Berlin-Weißensee gives you the impression of actually being directly among the audience!
Before leaving the new exhibition part, the visitor can sneek a peek into an old GDR garage. One can take a look through the crack of the door and discover the small paradise of DIY’ers, where not only diverse household effects were stored and repaired but also many useful things were created with the help of a great amount of creativity.
During the following weeks we will introduce the other rooms of the apartment on our blog as well as on other social media platforms. Next week we will begin with the kitchen!