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Volunteer of the Month: Justus Henze

1. March 2022

Justus likes to live among books and that’s why he decided to volunteer in our library. There he can not only read well, but also have enriching conversations with a wide variety of people. What Justus likes to talk about and which exhibition inspired him to start working at the Gay Museum, you can find out in the following interview.

SMU: Could you introduce yourself briefly?

Justus: I’m Justus, I’m 26 years old now. I’m from Berlin, but I was away for a long time. I’ve been back since January last year, and have been a volunteer here at the Schwules Museum since October last year. Otherwise I’m busy finishing my studies, which I hope will be soon. Apart from that, I’m very active in urban political disputes, such as Deutsche Wohnen und Co enteignen and all the stuff around that.

What are you studying?

I studied Economics and Sociology and Urban Studies/Urban Studies. And in the whole mix you get to knoe all the rent-political things very well, also economic topics, but also queer history and other topics in the area.

And how did you end up at the Schwules Museum?

As a guest of the exhibitions at the Schwules Museum itself. And then as a very sporadic user of the library then to the other work areas of the Schwules Museum. I wasn’t here that often, but for some topics like emancipation struggles and queer movement history in university or other projects, the Gay Museum was recommended to me in conversations with friends and was then one of the first places to go to delve deeper into these topics.

Why are you doing your volunteer work in the SMU library?

I didn’t go to the library that often, but every time I did, I thought to myself that this place must be as underfunded as any other cultural space in this city, which means that people are always looking for help. And then I saw a notice in the exhibition rooms that a large part of the work of the Schwules Museum is done by volunteers. And then I thought to myself: “Okay, this place is very important for me, for so many projects and so many people in this city. There always has to be people who simply keep it open and support it. Why not me too?!” And then I just wrote to the archive manager and asked: “Hey, are you still looking?” And because I came in this way and my time is a bit tight right now, I am now working as a volunteer in the library once every two weeks.

And what do you do there exactly?

Having a good time, sitting and reading. I think that’s the most important thing. I open the library, which doesn’t take that long, greet the guests and the users who are there, and then I actually have two, two and a half hours of good time with colleagues, coffee and good books. That’s why I think it’s a very nice service, where you can just sit among books, browse around, and chat with either the users or your colleagues in between.

Speaking of good books, do you have any book recommendations?

Yes, well privately I’m reading “The Freedom of a Woman” by Edouard Louis, but I can’t really recommend it yet, because I’m only on page 15. But I’ve heard a lot of good things, so I think it’s going to be something exciting.

What was your favorite exhibition at SMU?

I think my favorite exhibition and the impetus to really ask here again and to support the work here was “Rosarot in Ostberlin”. I was there, I think, last fall and was extremely enthusiastic about the exhibition. It was an exhibition on queer, gay, lesbian places in the GDR. The concept was super appealing and super beautiful and the topic, the historical course, in an emancipatory, but at the same time repressive system, incredibly exciting and well processed in the exhibition. I also learned a lot that I didn’t know at all.

And then as a conclusion, what would you wish for the museum?

I would be very happy if the museum, even more than it already is, became an open space for the whole city society and, in addition to the museum, art and culture and history space, where you can come to visit and also meet people, became even more of a meeting place. Because I believe that more and more spaces are disappearing for the scene, also due to pressure on rents and other developments that we all know about. And the Schwules Museum is already doing this really well and does a lot, to open up and invite many groups from the city here. And if that can happen even more, if this pandemic hopefully gets better soon, that would make me very happy.