Old Schwules Museum at Mehringdamm 61
Old Schwules Museum at Mehringdamm 61

How It Began

The Story of the Schwules Museum*

The story of the Schwules Museum* begins in the year 1984, at the former Berlin Museum, when, at the initiative of three museum guards, Andreas Sternweiler, Wolfgang Theis and Manfred Baumgardt, the museum's director allowed himself to be persuaded to take an innovative step. The three students had proposed to develop a show on homosexual men and women in Berlin for an exhibition in the museum. In the summer of 1984, the legendary exhibition Eldorado – the History, Everyday Life and Culture of Homosexual Women and Men 1850-1950 took place in the Berlin Museum, curated by the three initiators in collaboration with a group of lesbian activists. With over 40,000 visitors, the exhibition was just as successful as it was controversial. The resolution to found the Schwules Museum* crystalized out of this success. It was to be a permanent Eldorado, not just a one-time sensation at the city museum, but rather a dedicated house, a Schwules Museum. On 6 December 1985 the Verein der Freunde eines Schwulen Museums in Berlin e.V. (Friends of a Gay Museum in Berlin) was founded. In the offices of the “Allgemeine Homosexuelle Arbeitsgemeinschaft AHA” (General Homosexual Working Group) in Friedrichstraße, the foundation was laid for a museum library and an archive. At this location as well, the first exhibition took place in 1986: Igitt – 90 Years of Homo Press. One year later and essentially to boost tourism, the city staged elaborate festivities for the 750th anniversary of its founding, and the Schwules Museum* took advantage of the occasion by making its own cheeky interjection, the exhibition 750 Warm Berliners°.

In 1988, the museum moved into the courtyard building at Mehringdamm 61, where more than 130 exhibitions took place. Over the years, the Schwules Museum* has developed into a sought-after institution of both national and international stature. Lending requests have come from as near as the German Historical Museum in Berlin, or as far away as from the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C.. Researchers from across the world use the archive, and universities and research institutes cooperate with the museum.

The successful work at the Schwules Museum* meant that the collections, archive and library grew progressively, and space became tight. In spring 2013, the museum finally moved into the building at Lützowstraße 73 in Berlin's Tiergarten district.