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Volunteer of the month: Rainer Schmidt

1. January 2020

Interview with Rainer Schmidt

SMU: Rainer, please introduce yourself in three short sentences: Where are you from, what do you do for a living, what are your greatest interests and passions?

Rainer: I live in Berlin – which is wonderful! – for over 20 years now and earn my living in free market economy. You can often run across me in the Berliner Philharmonie, I love that the capital has such a brilliant range of contemporary art to offer. In summer, I often visit the Badeschiff. Apart from this, I meet my friends, and try to keep fit with all kinds of sport and good food.

How did you first come in contact with the Schwules Museum?

Unfortunately, I don’t know the prior location at Mehringdamm, but I have been a regular guest at exhibitions at the current site at Lützowstraße. Very soon came the day when I realized that I wanted to be involved myself. On the one hand to thank all the activists before me and on the other hand to support the LGBTIQ* community. Two weeks after I applied as a volunteer at SMU, I stood in the museum as a member of staff and was very excited.

What exactly are your tasks?

You can often find me at the cash register on Saturday or behind the bar in the evenings. I love to fall into conversation with our guests. For this reason, I am very happy that people across the world are interested in the SMU and come to visit. And my dear colleagues just elected me to be the volunteer representative – together with my colleague Maria, I represent our volunteers’ interests at board meetings, for example.

Why is the museum an important and special place for you?

The SMU is a unique institution for me which is historically oriented but at the same time also represents many current topics within our queer community. Our archive is well-equipped and constantly growing, and accessibility of the books in our library is very crucial. I think, something like this doesn’t exist elsewhere.

Is there an exhibition that you remember in detail?

At first, I have to think of our hommage of cottaging, “Fenster zum Klo” by Marc Martin. Not least, because I had many encounters there during my youth (laughs)! Besides this one, all exhibitions and events in the context of HIV&AIDS are very dear to my heart. I believe that we have to remember again and again.

Is there anything that you miss in the museum?

I think the museum will never be complete, because it is a living space that constantly evolves in its’ content. What I wish for: To learn more about homosexual history in the DDR. I myself was born there, and, for me, this topic is still under-represented.

How do you picture the museum’s future?

As a human being, I live in the here and now, but I am sure that wonderful years will come. The museum will change automatically, other topics and perspectives will turn up. I hope and believe that it can build bridges, save our history, and help the community to grow closer together.