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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 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.

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).

Association

The non-profit association Verein der Freundinnen und Freunde eines Schwulen Museums in Berlin e.V.  (Friends of a Gay Museum in Berlin) is responsible for the Schwules Museum. The association was founded on 6 December 1985, is registered with the number VR 8397 Nz at the Amtsgericht Berlin-Charlottenburg and is a recognized non-profit according to §§ 51 ff of the German tax code.

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