burger Button

about us

Mission Statement

The Schwules Museum (SMU) was founded in 1985 to provide a home for the history and culture of gay men and their emancipation movement, narratives that have been devalued and excluded by mainstream society’s museums and archives. It aims to house artistic works, life testimonies, and the documentation of social movements. Since then, the institution has evolved: Today, the SMU stands as the most important international center for researching, preserving, and presenting the culture and history of queer individuals, sexual and gender diversity, and is a sought-after collaborative partner for museums, universities, cultural support institutions, artists, and activists from around the world.

We perceive “queer” not only as an umbrella term for sexual or gender identities (LGBTIQ*+), but also as a critical practice that challenges not only heterosexual dominance and binary gender norms but all forms of discrimination and exclusion. Our mission involves strengthening the individual and collective self-awareness and agency of queer individuals through exhibitions, events, and our collection practices, providing a space for self-reflection, exchange, and community engagement. We aim to advocate for the acknowledgment of queer life designs in mainstream society and influence the museum world to establish queer culture and history as essential elements of collective memory, with sexuality and gender as relevant categories.

The SMU stands against the discrimination and marginalization of queer individuals in mainstream society and aims to implement equality in its own program and collection policies. We strive to develop new, more equitable narratives of queer history and culture that present diverse experiences, stories, struggles, and perspectives in their plurality and sometimes even contradictions. This involves examining and altering our own structures and practices to ensure inclusivity, making everyone, especially those most affected by discrimination, feel invited – as visitors, partners, or employees.

We work deliberately in an interdisciplinary and knowledge democracy manner, collecting various forms of evidence of queer histories and valuing all forms of knowledge – be it artistic, activist, everyday practical, or scientific. We design innovative, queer or queering museum formats that aim not only to present and impart knowledge but also to facilitate social interactions. Aesthetic processes and artistic work hold particular significance as practices of unsettling norms and envisioning utopias.

Coming from a grassroots movement, the museum remains a civil society project upheld by the voluntary commitment of many contributors and holds a special connection to queer communities. The multitude of diverse emotions and interests articulated within the museum are not always harmonious. We perceive conflicts and debates within and surrounding the SMU as expressions of its significance to many queer individuals, providing an opportunity to create a collective space to engage with our history and envision a future.

How It Began

The story of the Schwules Museum begins in the year 1984, at the former Berlin Museum. At the initiative of three museum guards, Andreas Sternweiler, Wolfgang Theis and Manfred Baumgardt, the museum’s director allowed himself to be persuaded to take an innovative step. The three students and their activist ally Manfred Herzer had proposed to develop an exhibition on homosexual men and women in Berlin. In the summer of 1984, the legendary exhibition Eldorado – the History, Everyday Life and Culture of Homosexual Women and Men 1850-1950 took place in the Berlin Museum, curated by the three initiators in collaboration with a group of lesbian activists. With over 40,000 visitors, the exhibition was just as successful as it was controversial. The resolution to found the Schwules Museum crystallized out of this success. It was to be a permanent Eldorado, not just a one-time sensation at the city museum, but rather a dedicated house, a Schwules Museum. On 6 December 1985 the Verein der Freunde eines Schwulen Museums in Berlin e.V. (Friends of a Gay Museum in Berlin) was founded. In the offices of the “Allgemeine Homosexuelle Arbeitsgemeinschaft AHA” (General Homosexual Working Group) in Friedrichstraße, the foundation was laid for a museum, a library and an archive. In 1986 the first exhibition of this new museum took place: Igitt – 90 Years of Homo Press. One year later, the city of Berlin staged elaborate festivities for the 750th anniversary of its founding. The Schwules Museum took advantage of the occasion by making its own cheeky intervention with the exhibition 750 Warm Berliners.

In 1988, the museum moved into the courtyard building at Mehringdamm 61, where eventually more than 130 exhibitions took place. Over the years, the Schwules Museum has developed into a sought-after institution of both national and international stature. Lending requests have come from as close as the German Historical Museum in Berlin and as far away as from the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C.. Researchers from across the world use the archive, and universities and research institutes cooperate with the museum. Since 2009, the museum has been receiving institutional funding from the State of Berlin.

New Location

The successful work at the Schwules Museum meant that the collections, archive and library grew progressively; space became tight. In spring 2013, the museum finally moved into the building at Lützowstraße 73 in Berlin’s Tiergarten district.

The ground floor houses four exhibition spaces and a café which can also be used for events. A non-lending library equipped with research spaces for visitors of all genders finds its home along with office spaces and a workshop in the upper floor. The Museum’s singular archival holdings have moved into the climate-controlled basement storage areas. In addition to a physical expansion, the move also means a thematic expansion for the museum: The Schwules Museum will intensify its function as a center of information on the diversity of sexual identities and concepts of gender.

The move was made possible through public funds. The museum was awarded a total of 644,000 euros, contributed in equal parts by the Stiftung Deutsche Klassenlotterie Berlin (German National Lottery Foundation) and the European Regional Development Fund. These funds financed primarily interior construction work which will keep the museum’s exhibitions and archive in conformance to international standards.

In addition to that, he first exhibitions at the new location were also partially financed through these funds.

The Project ESM – Expansion of the Schwules Museum at its new location is kindly supported by the European Regional Development Fund, the Berlin Culture Management in the context of its Cultural Investment Program (KIP) and the Stiftung Deutsche Klassenlotterie Berlin (German National Lottery Foundation Berlin) (DKLB).


The “Verein der Freundinnen und Freunde des Schwulen Museums in Berlin e.V.” (Association of Friends of the Gay Museum in Berlin) is the governing body of the Gay Museum. It was founded on December 6, 1985, and is registered under the number VR 8397 Nz in the association register of the Charlottenburg District Court in Berlin. It is recognized as a nonprofit organization according to §§ 51 ff. of the German Fiscal Code.

→ Information on Membership


Become a part of the volunteer team and support the museum in its day-to-day running business, in the organization of events, or in the archives.

→ More Information