By Susanne Boersma (Staatliche Museen zu Berlin – SPK)
Museums have increasingly initiated projects that reflect on (forced) migration, through which they aim for a bottom-up approach that involves the affected people in the presentation of their own journey or heritage. Combining studies from migration and museum research, this paper explores participatory practices in museums in relation to ‘integration’, moving beyond a broader approach to ‘migration’. It focuses on three selected projects that have taken place in Berlin in response to the so-called ‘refugee crisis’ and defines elements of these projects that set out to further the process of integration.
The paper reflects on the impact of such practices on forced migrants and the local population, rather than on the museum and its goals to diversify audiences. Integration can be understood as a two-fold process that takes place not only in the context of the life of the migrant, but also in the lives of those that make up society of the migrants’ destinations. Various projects with refugees in museums have aimed to play a role in these binary shifts of the local population learning about commonalities with newcomers to develop openness and hospitality towards different cultures and cultural practices, and recent migrants understanding commonalities with the local population and situation to develop a feeling of belonging, or Heimat. They often acknowledge these dynamics of integration and aim to foster a positive impact on the involved peoples. This paper studies the ways in which these projects go beyond their institutional goals in order to achieve this particular objective.