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Volunteer of the Month: Sydney Ramirez

”Porn is a part of queer culture”

Sydney Ramirez is from Boston, studies History at the Humboldt University and is working as a Volunteer at the SMU – there you can find her primarily at the library, helping visitors to find their way around the shelves of over 20,000 titles. In the interview she tells how she is active in the fight against racist police violence besides her museum job, what she finds exciting about porn and why her favourite book from the SMU library is a cookbook.

SMU: Hello Sydney! When you‘re not at the museum, how do you spend your time?

Sydney Ramirez: Especially because of the current situation and the existing criticism of racist police violence, I am involved in supporting various organizations, both in the USA where I come from, and also in Berlin – for example the campaign for victims of racist police violence and Hydra e.V., which is an organization  for networking and consultation for sexworkers. At the moment many people think about what to do as a white person in society, which is often discriminatory. I am a student, so I don’t have a lot of money, but what I saved with not going to concerts over the last months, I decided to donate. For me that seemed like a good way of support. I also talk a lot to my family and friends about those topics and ways to show solidarity. Apart from that, I’m doing my Master’s in History at Humboldt University, I love reading and cooking and I run a reading group on feminist theory.

You said, that you like to go to concerts. What kind of concerts? And what’s your favorite kind of music?

That’s my least favourite question (laughs). It’s very diverse. One of my last concerts was Jenny Hval, who played at the HAU. That was half performance, half concert, which I liked a lot. She makes ‘creepy pop’ music. But I also just watched a stream concert via Twitch, the genre here was Noise and Ambient. I thought, funny you can also do it that way!

Tell me, how did you get in touch with the Schwules Museum?

The first time I visited the museum as a tourist in 2015. At that time I was doing a exchange semester in Hamburg. In 2017 I started my Master at Humboldt University in Berlin. There I met Ben Miller who is a board member of the museum. Together we were teaching a course about queer history at the university. When the semester ended and I was missing the engagement in that topic, Ben said to me ,,Come to the museum!’’ He told me there were free spots at the voluntary team for the library and archive. That’s the work I was interested in the most, so I applied for a placement in the voluntary team and shortly after I was talking to head of archive Peter Rehberg.

What are you doing at the library of the Schwules Museum and what excites you about your work?

I sit behind the counter and when people have any questions about how they find a book or how to use the catalogue, I help them. Sometimes the topic of porn comes up and I am always excited about that. But also the other materials, which come in from the archive are super interesting. Through my work I often get to talk with the people about what they’re researching and it’s always interesting to get into new topics.    Why are you so fascinated with porn?

Why are you so fascinated with porn?

Well, I think anybody likes to watch porn, I think that’s fun for everyone. The archive has quite a bit porn in the collection, because porn is part of the queer culture. Here I also have an interest as a historian.

Why is the Schwules Museum an important place?

S: I have to think about what a friend once said to me who was working at the Lesbian Herstory Archive in New York. She said, that they are the ones who fight to maintain the archive. If the house would burst into flames, the people who work there would know what needs to be saved and they would be willing to do so. I don’t trust the state or other museums to know, what’s important for the queer culture. That’s why I think it’s so important to have the museum and especially the archive. Also, here at the museum you get to see the queer culture so vividly. I am thinking about events like the Medical-Lube-Wrestling last December, which was happening as part of the ‘’Trial and Error’’-exhibition. This way you don’t always have to go to bars or clubs to meet people of the community.

Do you have a book recommendation from the library?

There is a Marlene-Dietrich-cookbook, that’s a constant recommendation of mine! It seems like Marlene Dietrich made famous scrambled egg. I always use her recipe. Anyway, there is a cookbook section in the library, which in my opinion is used far too little!