“Being at the Schwules Museum introduces a whole lot of inspiration to my life.”
Heiko Pollmeier first visited the SMU already during the 90’s and has been volunteering here for a decade. Here, he introduces you to his SMU-Darling, Matthias Wienhold’s activist-suitcase. This constantly growing AIDS-archive is a collection from the doctor and AIDS-activist Wienold, full with objects like the leather jacket of the Act-Up-activist Andreas Salmen. Starting this June, friends of the SMU show their favorite piece from the museum and tell us what makes it so special.
Dear Heiko, why don’t you introduce yourself in a few sentences: where are you from, what do you do, what’s on your mind?
My name is Heiko, I’m a real (West) Berliner and a Romance philologist and historian. I combined both fields for my PhD so that I would have an excuse to do research in France for my dissertation.
How did you become friend with the Schwules Museum? How do you stay connected to the Museum?
I knew about the Schwules Museum already since the 90’s, from visiting exhibitions on my own. The museum is always offering interesting exhibitions to see, especially about great gay celebrities. Yet, I found it kind of dusty and a little bit too gay too. I became a volunteer at the Schwules Museum as the themes were more multi-faceted. I realized it as women, lesbian, inter*, non-binary and agender persons were also adressed, which was totally important for me. I was actually busy developping an AIDS-project in 2012 and I knew about the big collection of the Schwules Museum. Getting into volunteering was sort of a way for me to say thank you to all of the people in the community who were engaging themselves so that I can live more or less freely as a gay man. Thus, I got the opportunity to give back something too with the project, which the museum could benefit from. Therefore, I became a volunteer for the archives in 2012. I’m part of the museum since already 10 years now. Being here is giving my life further input and quite a lot of inspiration.
What duties are you accomplishing at the museum? What do you particularly enjoy doing there?
I’m a volunteer at the library and at the museum services. Since I love foreign languages and I got in contact with visitors of themuseum coming from abroad on my very first day in June 2012, I quickly realized how the contact with the visitors really suited me. I actually see myself more as someone who stays in the background, without attracting attention. Through the museum, I got to discover another side of me.
As the museum moved to Lützowstraße in 2013, I was immediatly recruited for the library. Due to the diversity of the respective areas of voluntary work, I find it thus important to make the connection between both fields.
Through library work and my French knowledge, I suddendly found myself in an exhibition project again, from which I would have never risked dreaming about – namely: “Fenster zum Klo”.
The project brought me along into other projects again and I was moreover able to give guided tours. Despite obstacles from COVID-19, I came from “Fenster zum Klo” to another exhibition project: “arcHIV. eine Spurensuche”.
I suppose that you stumbled upon your darling through the exhibition project, right? Do you want to introduce us to your darling?
Yes, exactly. One of my favorite from the archives of the Schwules Museum is a “Schatzkoffer” (treasure suitcase). That’s the suitcase of a doctor and AIDS-activist: Matthias Wienold. I am member of the curator’s team for the AIDS-focused exhibition “arcHIV. eine Spurensuche”, where Wienolds’ case is to be seen. I have also given guided tours in the exhibition and about this suitcase, for instance.
And what is linking you to your darling?
This old suitcase from the 60’s is also in a certain way a “Schatztruhe” (treasure chest) in which many objects related to the AIDS-thematic are coming together. Thereby was the suitcase, including many objects, which was very inspirational for the exhibition.
What makes it unique?
It is a suitcase full of past AIDS-relicts. It contains documents, objects, artifacts and pieces of clothing such as the last leather jacket of Act Up activist Andreas Salmen, a “parade vest” full of buttons, and a T-shirt of the Australian delegation designed by an artist for the International AIDS Conference in Berlin in June 1993. At the same time, the suitcase is a kind of “work in progress,” because apparently Wienold keeps coming to our museum and adding to the contents of the suitcase. I find that fascinating.