“I think I would give my Darling to my dormitory roommates. […] With this gift, I want to show them that a dirty room can also engender something positive and beautiful.”
Hendrik hasn’t been member of the volunteer team for very long. Before that, he came to the SMU as a visitor to see the exhibitions. Now he is eagerly involved with us, to everyone’s delight! Although he has only been active for a month, he has a lot to tell us. Here, he introduces you to his experiences as a newbie and his own personal darling: the most popular room of the Tunten, the dining room of our Tuntenhaus exhibition!
Hello to our new volunteer! Hendrik, would you please introduce yourself? Where are you from, what do you do and how did you actually come to the Gay Museum?
Sure! My name is Hendrik and I’m now 22. I come from Pritzwalk. That’s in the north of deep Brandenburg, practically from a village. I’m currently studying German and history at the Potsdam University to become a teacher. Even at high school I gave homework help or maths tutoring, until I started offering tutoring in maths, German and English at Schülerhilfe in Babelsberg when I was 21.
In terms of what brought me here? I was looking for a voluntary job! In fact, I thought to myself, since I have this paid tutoring job, I want to give something back. I wanted to do something that I enjoy more and that also concerns me more personally. That’s why I ended up joining the Schwules Museum!
That sounds like a long way to come! Would you also like to tell us what you do at the Museum?
Right, so I’ve worked in reception and the hall supervision so far. I’m trying to learn the ropes in the café, but it will probably take me a while to get to grips with the different machines! Museum service means making sure no one gets into mischief, and to be just present to answer questions. Or keeping people from walking into an empty room during constructions (laughs) At reception I greet visitors, give them headphones and explain which exhibitions are on show and that we have a library and archive.
Recently, for example, I spoke to a visitor who came from Turkey and he wanted to know where he could meet gay men in Berlin. He came to the Museum precisely for this purpose and showed me on Google Translate “I only want men” (laughs) Since he didn’t know English very well, I made myself understood with facial expressions and gestures. Generally speaking, you find a lot of queer people here who are in Germany for the first time and see the Museum as their first entry point into a queer world. In this case, I like to give them tips on where to go.
Which work do you like best here?
To be honest, I really like the reception chores because you come into direct contact with people. I meet so many cool and funny humans. Somehow they always put a smile on my face. I think it’s a very relaxing job when you work with music in the background. After a while it might get a bit monotonous when repeating the same sentences. But apart from that, reception is really great and there’s always something to do.
So much knowledge, and you’ve only been a volunteer for a short time, right?
Yes, actually only for a month!
Oh, because colleagues have told me: “We have a volunteer, he’s great and he’s done so many shifts! You have to talk to him!” How have you experienced so much?
Indeed! How many shifts have I done, like 7 or 8? In any case, the biggest shift was on admission-free Sunday, the Museumssonntag. That took a lot out of me, to be honest. 60 people came in one hour and 70 in the next. It was so crowded! If you don’t have headphones anymore, you have to leave the visitors out in the cold a bit and say, “Yeah, people, sorry, we don’t have headphones for now”. Or if there are big groups, it can happen that you lose track of what’s going on. You ask yourself, “Have I seen everyone’s ticket yet?” That was really challenging and exciting.
Great work! I think we can introduce your Darling now. What did you choose then?
The dining room from the current exhibition “Tuntenhaus Forellenhof 1990”! It’s not a typical room that you have as a well-off citizen. It’s not tidy or luxurious, but rather… wicked would be wrong (laughs) But it has something functional, partly dirty about it – I don’t mean that in a negative way. It’s not so much about the impression it gives on the surface anyway, but about the value of this dining room.
So, it’s a comfortably dirty feeling?
Exactly, comfortably dirty! (laughs)
What do you have in common with your darling?
First of all, I find this dining room very beautiful. Some people might think it’s uncomfortable, but I feel the opposite. This cement, this brutalism, the walls without any wallpaper, everything blank, narrow and dark, like a block. I like that! It’s like a cosy block, it invites you to feel good.
I can understand that! Is there someone you would like to give this cosy block to?
I think I would give it to my dormitory roommates. Our kitchen has recently become very cluttered with empty bottles and things that haven’t been washed. With this dining room as a gift, I want to show them that a dirty room can also engender something positive and beautiful.
Or to my parents, to show them that there is something else besides this fancy life. Something that is not based on appearence, but on inner values. That’s what it was all about when the Tunten were really living there at that time, acting at that time. There, I think, one didn’t give a shit what the room looks like. It’s about feeling comfortable as a community, even if you have disagreements among yourselves, you still remain a team. This room is a meeting place for everyone.