Reflecting contemporary issues in a history museum | Culture| Arts, music and lifestyle reporting from Germany | DW | 12.12.2017
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Reflecting contemporary issues in a history museum

German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier has reopened the permanent exhibition of the Haus der Geschichte. Here's how the museum of contemporary history in Bonn renewed its exploration of the country's current issues.

More up-to-date, more international, more emotional: that's how the permanent exhibition in Bonn's Haus der Geschichte (House of History) presents itself following construction works that went on for almost one year.

During the renovation of the museum, some parts of the exhibition, especially those covering recent events since 1980, were renewed. Numerous new items, photographs, documents, film and audio materials were added to illustrate issues such as terrorism, migration and digitization.

President Frank-Walter Steinmeier giving a speech at the reopening of the museum Haus der Geschichte in Bonn (Jennifer Zumbusch)

President Frank-Walter Steinmeier giving a speech at the reopening of the museum

'We should, and we must, remain critical'

"This exhibition helps us understand the paths that we have taken," German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier stated in his opening speech on Monday, warning that "we should, and we must, remain critical."

"That means that we cannot stop raising critical questions about the way we deal with our history, as well as the political conclusions we draw from it," Steinmeier added.

"We have made an effort to bear reference to contemporary times while continuing to tackle new topics," explained museum director Hans Walter Hütter.  

In his view, the biggest challenge is to include new topics within a limited exhibition space. "In this way, we are limited in our efforts," Hütter sums up.

Bonn - Haus der Geschichte (Jennifer Zumbusch)

A look at the renewed permanent exhibition

Since its inception in 1994, the show has been renewed three times, in 2001, 2011 and 2017. 

Marking the deaths of refugees

One of the prominent items in the show's new collection is the refugee boat that Cologne's Archbishop, Cardinal Rainer Maria Woelki had set up as an altar in front of the cathedral in Cologne, in memory of the people who lost their lives while crossing the Mediterranean (top picture).

Read more: Refugee boat serves as altar in Cologne

Deutschland Graffiti ertrunkener Flüchtlingsjunge (picture-alliance/dpa/A. Dedert)

Several artists have made use of the picture of Aylan Kurdi, such as in this graffiti in Frankfurt

Also depicting the dramatic circumstances under which people try to flee to Europe is a painting created by a Syrian refugee in a refugee center in Dresden.

The artwork is based on a photograph that went around the world in September 2015, featuring Aylan Kurdi, a three-year old Syrian boy of Kurdish descent whose body had been washed ashore at the Turkish coast.

Another new exhibit deals with right-wing extremism, calling on visitors to grapple with a series of racist murders committed by the National Socialist Underground (NSU). The prayer chain of the NSU's first victim, Enver Simsek, was contributed to the museum by the family of the assassinated flower merchant.

Admission to the permanent exhibition of the Haus der Geschichte in Bonn is free. 



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