“You see, we never ever called it voluntary work. It was, and still is, political work free of charge”
Ulli was just recently elected to be part of the board of directors, even though she, for once, tried to volunteer without having grand responsibilities. However, we simply couldn’t do without her expertise on digitalization and the women’s movement. In this interview: what brought Ulli into the SMU and convinced her to join the board of directors.
SMU: Why don’t you introduce yourself, what do you work and what do you do in your free time?
Ulli: Let me start in the professional realm. For most part of my life, I was in EDP. Back then we didn’t have IT, but EDP: that’s electronic data processing. That was my dream job! I really got lucky by finding something, that actually brings me joy. By the age of 39, I did my Abitur because I wanted to study psychology, but didn’t end up doing. Instead I began my studies of sociology and economy, which I didn’t finish. I realised that I wasn’t much of a research person. I am way more practical. I spent most my time working in programming and consulting, always in big teams and big companies, almost always as someone from outside.
And how did you end up working on voluntary basis?
You see, we never ever called it voluntary work. It was, and still is, political work free of charge. Actually, the state is responsible for social and sociological disasters. So, wherever political work is done, where in fact the state should be responsible, we always spoke of political work free of charge. We even peddled this idea around, since it’s such an important issue. One that isn’t even remotely resolved yet. At some point, the city offered opportunities for steady employments, which actually made us lose a concept of an enemy. That was a complicated situation. During this professionalization, there were problems with the unpaid workers because they weren’t as informed anymore. I, for example, couldn’t apply to one of these spots, since I didn’t have the necessary training. That way, the advice centres and women’s refuges split. When I moved towns, it was time to make a clean cut with that.
And how did come to joining the Schwule Museum?
I had my coming-out in my 40s. That way, I also rediscovered a political home – after a short stay at the green party – and I immediately started organizing again. I co-organized the Lesbian-Spring-Meeting and was part of the movement. I also was part of the board of directors at the LesbenRing e.V. for some time. 2018 I joined the club of the Schwule Museum, because I increasingly got interested. While visiting a vernissage here and there, I got to know Birgit Bosold and slowly became friends with the museum.
Before Corona I decided to work in the musem free of charge and resigned from all committees such as boards, women’s council or the Magnus Hirschfeld foundation. At first I really didn’t want to have any extra responsibilities at the SMU. I only wanted to be part of the supervision in the exhibition halls, and work a little bit in the café. I enjoy talking to people and thought it would be cute, I can do something good and not be caught up in responsibilities. Of course, it all came very differently…
At the Schwule Museum you, just recently, got elected to be part of the board of directors. What made you reconsider your initial decision to not offer yourself as a candidate?
In other voluntary positions, I always was part of the board of directors. Hence, I am familiar with its work and I always did lots of financial administration. But at some point, I got tired of that. Now I took the decision to join the board, since it is really the first time ever that the community is asking for my professional competences, like with the digitization.
Okay, and lastly: if you could change one thing about the museum, what would that be? Or, what do you miss at the museum?
Well, I can’t really tell what I am missing yet. There is always something, that could be a little better. For example, the consent that we want more diversity, which is something we are all working towards. That’s why I am confident, that things are changing here. Also, I like this focus, of noticing everyone and having lots of diverse groups represented. The wind of change is breezing through the house, so to say.