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    GDR museums and everyday memory

    Arnold-de-Simine, Silke (2010) GDR museums and everyday memory. In: Remembering and Rethinking the GDR: Multiple Perspectives and Plural Authenticities?, 2010, Bangor University, Wales, UK. (Unpublished)

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    Abstract

    At first glance it is somehow surprising that museums such as the DDR Museum (opened 2006 in Berlin) and the Dokumentationszentrum Alltagskultur der DDR (established in 1993 in Eisenhüttenstadt) are contentious institutions given that they are both concerned with such seemingly mundane topics as everyday life, consumer objects, material culture and memories of daily routine. But it is exactly this emphasis on “normality” which attracts criticism, as both museums are accused of detracting from the fact that the GDR had been a dictatorship (“Unrechtsstaat”). But does the museal presentation of everyday life necessarily distract museum visitors from the political oppression and severe constrictions which shaped life in the GDR? In response to criticism such as Hubertus Knabe‟s claim that in these museums the GDR is presented as “sozialpolitisches Großexperiment und nicht als menschenverachtende Diktatur,” one could argue that daily life in the GDR can not be uncoupled from the political regime. Even so, the criticism directed towards these museums ranges from accusations of blatant “Ostalgie” to a more differentiated scepticism regarding the museums‟s forms of representation. In this talk I will investigate these claims and try to contextualise the debates in a global landscape of remembrance which informs 21 and therefore helps to understand the memory contests taking place in Germany. Questions: Why is the GDR memory landscape divided into the everyday and the political sphere? What are the major problems with this dichotomy? What are the political implications of the different museal strategies to transform communicative into cultural memory? Does the museal presentation of everyday life steer museum visitors away from the political oppression and severe constrictions which shaped life in the GDR?

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