“SMU is a space of encounter”
When he doesn’t ride his bicycle around Berlin or sticks his nose into queer books, Philipp spends his time at the SMU. Since early 2020, he volunteers in the museum service. He enjoys the museum as a queer space of encounter away from Berlin’s party culture. In this interview, he tells us about his work and his visions for the museum.
SMU: Please introduce yourself in three short sentences: Where are you from, what do you do for a living, what are your greatest passions and hobbies?
Philipp: I am Philipp, 30 years old, come from Luckenwalde in Brandenburg, and live in Berlin for ten years now. I studied Social Sciences and Religion and Culture, with a few stays abroad. Now I work for a local bank. My hobbies and passions… I don’t have one particular thing that I pursue. Fortunately, I started to read a lot during the pandemic, and currently focus on queer authors and queer topics. I read everything that I can find. Besides that, I am very active doing sports: Cycling through the city, sailing on Scharmützelsee, doing yoga; and last summer I discovered surfing for me.
How did you first come into contact with the Schwules Museum? When and how did you start volunteering at the museum?
I haven’t been here long, only since 2020. I lived in Frankfurt/Main in 2019, moved to Berlin at the turn of the year, and decided that I wanted to become involved as a volunteer. And immediately, the Schwules Museum came to mind, I had seen a call for volunteers a while back. I looked at the website and had an interview here. One or two weeks later, I started as a volunteer. The reason that I chose the Schwules Museum was that I always liked coming here. It was a perfect fit because I wanted to become involved in the cultural sector anyways.
What do you do in the museum? What are your tasks, what do you especially like to do?
I am in the museum service and either work at the café or as a guard. At the café, I make drinks and serve the guests, as guards, we are contact persons for the visitors, when they have questions or want to talk about the exhibition to someone. At opening times, we are responsible to start the equipment, turn everything on in order that everyone who comes can experience the exhibition as it was intended.
Why is the museum a special and important place for you?
I have three thoughts in my head connected to this. The first is that I find the historical perspective extremely important – especially for our community, to have a look at its history. Because this enables us to acknowledge emancipation that was already achieved, put it into context, and treasure it. What is to be done, now and in the future? That’s the second point, that’s important for me: That it is a place to investigate how we today deal with LGBTIQ topics. That’s why a museum is always also a space of reflection about the now and the future. And for me personally, the museum is important because it is a space of encounter. I think that there are fewer and fewer queer spaces of encounter, or often, queer spaces appear in the context of parties. But there is another side of encounter, and it exists at the Schwules Museum.
What is your fondest memory at the SMU? Is there an exhibition that you especially remember? Or an event?
I think, the summer gathering. I started here during the pandemic and because of this circumstance, I didn’t meet the people who work here, and the other volunteers, for a long time. The summer gathering was the occasion to see who is involved here, who is part of the Schwules Museum. I really enjoyed it because I could meet so many people. Concerning exhibitions, I found the exhibition »Homosexualität_en« really remarkable. It was, I think, the first exhibition that I’ve seen here. Lately I really liked »Rosarot in Ost-Berlin«, about LGBTIQ in the GDR.
Is there anything you miss at the museum? Or something that you would like to change or improve?
It would be possible to extend the café that it is not only a museum café but also more frequently open as a normal café. That would be nice. And I would like it if we opened ourselves up more for schools. When I was in school, queer topics were not adequately discussed – this should be different today.