Sunday, September 13, 2009

Hmmm...What would a Museum of Hygiene be Like?

The whole name seems a bit clinical: The German Hygiene Museum in Dresden. I really didn't know what to expect, but made my way there. It's out of the center city area, and appears to not particularly be on the tourist trail. There weren't huge numbers of visitors on a sunny Sunday afternoon.

But...although I was a bit unmoved by the permanent exhibit and the children's museum part seemed fairly routine, the exhibit Work, Meaning, Care, was one of the most surprising things I'd seen in a very long time. The museum's website describes the ideas driving the exhibit:
In the five sections of this exhibition, fundamental questions are posed about work as it is understood today. How can we properly tell whether work is being done, and how can work and leisure be distinguished from one another? What purpose does work serve in a capitalist society? How do our individual attitudes towards work develop during childhood and at school? What importance does work have beyond power, money and recognition? What are the options available for the world of work tomorrow?
The exhibit made extensive use of video installations, and surprising spaces--somehow a space with a disco ball was pretty unexpected! The exhibit was really designed for adults, although I think older children, accompanied by parents, may have found it interesting as well. There were lots of words (in German and English), but a great deal else to look at as well--I mean, when was the last time you saw a case full of people's security blankets--literally, those blankies and stuffed animals that provide comfort?

I only took a couple photos before I was reprimanded, so here's just a few shots of mine, followed by some from the museum's website.

The outer walls of each section all used black and white graphics to tell a story--but they were really graphics in the sense of being graphical representations of all sorts of information--what time we start work, unemployment, and the like. Statistics made interesting!

There were dozens of videos in many different presentations from a dark room where gigantic videos of people at work (for instance, doing surgery) to mid-sized videos such as these where you heard about topics such as work boredom, to an ending series of videos that used puppets to explore the work of the future.

In spending some time on the museum's website, I found a summary of their work:
It is thus neither a science center nor a special museum devoted to a strictly defined topic area. Its interests center on the biological, social, and cultural dimensions of the human being. As a modern museum of science, it especially reflects what the sciences mean for society of the 21st century. Through its exhibitions and events, the Deutsches Hygiene-Museum offers an independent public forum for the dialogue between science and society.
What did I particularly appreciate about this exhibit?
  • Really thinking outside the box about design and use of media--my descriptions don't really do justice to the inventiveness at work here
  • Surprising spaces--dark, light, big, little
  • It was really about ideas--it took a topic--work--that I can't even imagine how many exhibits I've seen about--and made me think about it in new ways.
  • and, it integrated a whole host of different perspectives--not as sidebars, but in the conceptual heart of the exhibit.

1 comment:

Anne W. Ackerson said...

I think they should've picked a different name for the museum. It doesn't quite describe your experience or what they say about themselves. Maybe there's some connection that resonates with Germans, but I don't get it.