Part 2: The Exhibit Prototype
The culmination of the workshop was the collaborative production of a prototype for an online exhibition for the Wende Museum’s new website. The exhibit “Living in a Socialist City in the GDR” took as its starting point the idea that socialist urban planning, consumer culture, and the daily experiences of East German citizens could reveal a great deal about the nature of the East German state, both its ideology and its reality. The exhibit had five parts, and a pair of students, one German and one American, worked on each of the five themes. The first theme, “Marketing a Socialist City,” used official marketing, such as travel brochures, to examine the ways in which the SED promoted a specific vision of the East German city. The second theme, “Public Spaces & the Socialist City,” continued this focus on the ways in which cities – their public spaces – became sites where the SED regime promoted specific socialist ideals, whether through monumental architecture, public art works, or parades and festivals. With the third theme, the students began to shift their focus to the everyday experiences of urban inhabitants. In the section “Private Spaces,” the exhibit highlighted East German dwellings, especially the Plattenbau apartment buildings, and interior design. The fourth theme, “The Marketplace & Consumer Culture,” explored East German consumer goods and patterns of consumption, with a focus on household goods, toys, food, and music. The final section, “Social Experiences,” focused on examining how different East Germans experienced the urban world around them, by looking at, for example, questions of gender and generation. The students chose the artifacts to be highlighted, wrote the texts – in both German and English – for the exhibit, designed the visual layout, and framed how visitors would engage with the exhibit, including opportunities for visitors to share their own experiences in East Germany. At the end of the month the students presented their exhibit prototype to Wende Museum staff as well as visitors from other local museums and universities. The workshop participants continued to work on the project even after the workshop in Los Angeles came to a close, using email and Dropbox to finalize the exhibition texts.
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