Department of Museum Studies, Research Seminar Series
Monday, 5th March 2007
Questions of access – The disadvantaged young in German museums
Aims and context of research:
‘One of the greatest challenges for museums at the beginning of the twenty-first century is the turn to the visitor’
Within my research I want to explore, through both empirical and theoretical investigation the role of German Museums in questions of social responsibility and access towards young people from disadvantaged backgrounds.
My paper will provide an overview of the present German situation that constitutes the context of my research.
Germany's alarming results of comparative international education studies like PISA  and the fact that in no other industrialized country the social background seems to be so decisive for educational success as in Germany  have raised the discussion of equity in education within academy, policy makers and professionals from different disciplines. Within this debate cultural education is seen as crucial for developing life-skills and combating this disadvantages. Cultural education within this context is seen as learning through the engagement within the arts and music (BKJ 1999, 2000, 2002, 2003, 2004). But although there is an understanding of Museums in Germany as places for life-long learning for all (German Museums Association 2004) German museums only play a passive and marginalised role in this ongoing debate.
Thus the aim of my research is to identify reasons of this role and its influence on disadvantaged young people towards their agendas concerning museums in order to consider the potentials of challenging this position towards a more inclusive and active one.
 With the PISA studies ("Programme for International Student Assessment"), the OECD tries to explore how well young people are prepared for the challenges of the knowledge society. The target group are fifteen-year old pupils, for whom compulsory education soon ends in many countries. The student skills are tested in the areas of mahematics, reading and the sciences.
 PISA results 2003
2005, I have started my PhD-Research at the University of Hildesheim, Department of Cultural Politics. Since September 2006 I am a visitor research student at the Department of Museum Studies at the University of Leicester. My research concentrates on the social responsibility of Museums in a German context with special focus to the accessibility of the disadvantaged young.
After receiving a diploma in Business Communication with a thesis on “Museums in the Light of today’s Economy” in cooperation with the State Museums of Berlin, I have worked for two years as marketing manager at the Jewish Museum Berlin. Opening in September 2001, the Jewish Museum Berlin, with its spectacular building designed by Daniel Libeskind, is the largest Museum of its kind in Europe. With nearly 700.000 visitors each year, it has become one of the most visited Museums in Germany. During this time I developed special programs for children and young people, like the holiday educational program and some activities around Jewish holidays, that are still part of the educational work of the museum.
Since the beginning of 2003 I was chief editor and project manager of ‘ZWEI’, the Jewish Museum Berlin’s magazine. Appearing twice a year it is the Museum’s most important marketing publication and is orientated towards the members of the museum’s society, the donors and year-card-holders, as well as anyone who is interested in German Jewish history and life.
The Attic (a name which commemorates our first physical location) is, first and foremost, a site for the research students of the School of Museum Studies at the University of Leicester: a virtual community which aims to include all students, be they campus-based and full-time, or distance-learning and overseas. But we welcome contributions from students of museum studies - and allied subject areas - from outside the School and from around the world. Here you will find a lot of serious stuff, like exhibition and research seminar reviews, conference alerts and calls for papers, but there's also some 'fluff'; the things that inspire, distract and keep us going. After all, while we may be dead serious academic types, we're human too.