Visiting the Schwules Museum (Gay Museum) takes you on a walk through the history of Berlin's LGBT community. Find out about the life of Charlotte von Mahlsdorf, gay icon and transvestite in former East Germany. In the main exhibition space, you can see photos, videos, postcards, letters and items of clothing. There is also a library and archive where you can browse through university publications or lifestyle magazines from the 1990s. Stay later and catch an evening lecture on topics as diverse as experiences of coming out, celebrity culture or sad testimonies about persecution and intolerance.
Gay history milestones
Berlin needs a museum for gay history! In the 1980s, students Andreas Sternweiler, Wolfgang Theis and Manfred Baumgardt make that possible. In 1984, the first exhibition opens, entitled "Eldorado - Homosexual Women and Men in Berlin 1850-1950" within the exhibition space of the Berlin Museum. The project that is frowned upon by some, but the students continue with the aim of increasing acceptance and tolerance. The following year, the "Association of Friends of a Gay Museum in Berlin" is formed with a change of venue: a museum with a library and archive is installed in a building belonging to AHA, a gay rights working group. The first exhibition takes place on the 750th anniversary of Berlin's founding and is a huge public success. As the library and the archive grows, the museum changes location twice more. Today, researchers visiting the Lützowstraße building have access to a huge collection of material from the gay scene. Just head to the archive in the basement, where you can see over 50,000 objects ranging from old postcards to vinyl records and VHS tapes. Since 2008 there has been an exhibition about the history of lesbians, transgender and people of all sexual identities, also known as queer or LGBTI*. The asterisk found on the logo of the Gay Museum symbolises this inclusivity. Take a break in the ground floor cafe where you can browse through more photos and letters, and learn about gay trailblazers and their struggle for respect and acceptance. On the first floor is the library where you can read, research and rummage your way through 16,000 volumes.
5 Key Points of the Schwules Museum
- "Gay, lesbian, Jewish" travelling exhibition.
- Large collection of around 1,500 Japanese comics.
- Sponsorship opportunities.
- Relics from Rudolf Klimmer and Charlotte von Mahlsdorf.
- 600 Super 8 films from the '70s.
Lützowstraße is at the heart of a cultural and artistic area. 5 minutes' walk from the Schwules Museum brings you to the Haus am Lützowplatz, a gallery of contemporary art and design. The theme of the Gedenkstätte Deutscher Widerstand memorial is resistance to the Nazi regime, and you can learn about leading figures such as Stauffenberg and the Scholl siblings. The Bauhaus Archive is on the Landwehrkanal, built in the striking architectural style of Walter Gropius. The building is a popular film location, and 'V for Vendetta' is filmed here in 2005. See more about cinema and television in the Museum für Film und Fernsehen at Potsdamer Platz, home to a large collection of props from German film history, including memorabilia connected to Marlene Dietrich, who also features in the Schwules Museum. Take a stroll along Potsdamer Straße, and you'll find some innovative galleries and studios. This is also a perfect place to stop for lunch as there are plenty of restaurants to choose from.
Practical tips from visitBerlin
The Schwules Museum is in Lützowstraße in the Tiergarten area of Berlin. Take the U1 subway line to Kurfürstenstraße station and walk 800 m to the entrance of the Schwules Museum. Alternatively, take the M29 bus route which leaves from Kurfürstendamm. By car, park at Potsdamer Platz and then travel the rest of the way by bus. Museumspass holders get free entry, and if you have the Berlin WelcomeCard, a 25% discount applies. The archive and library can be visited for research purposes without appointment. If you wish to see the library's film collections, these can be viewed in the media workspace if you have booked beforehand. Groups of five people or more should also book in advance. The museum offers free guided tours in either German or English.