Guest Post: Reflections on ‘Elternzeit Kultur’

August 16, 2016

Kids in Museums

Museum Diary is back from its summer break! And ready to jump right back in to things. If you’ve been following the blog for a while, you may remember my post about the ‘babies in museums’ initiative I worked together on with the Stadtmuseum Berlin. I followed up my post with a review of my visit with my own baby to one of the special free admission day for parents. With the exhibition and our pilot project now coming to an end, and the last ‘Elternzeit Kultur’ day – for now – taking place just a week from today, I wanted to let the Stadtmuseum Berlin have a word themselves, in this guest post from Claudia Wasow-Kania, a freelance museum education specialist for Stadtmuseum Berlin and the ‘live speaker’ at ‘Elternzeit Kultur’. So, over to Claudia…

Babies in Museums EP 01

Culture for young parents – Taking the baby to the museum

There’s no doubt that parents and grandparents with babies are part of Berlin life. Parks, playgrounds and children’s cafés are popular spots – Berlin even has Kinderwagenkinos, or “pram cinemas”. But what is it like taking a baby to the museum? Until now, young parents with babies have been the exception among museum visitors. Tolerated much more than celebrated, visiting an exhibition with a baby has traditionally been very inconvenient. I can still clearly recall a few such experiences myself. This situation is currently changing for the better.

Actively addressing new target groups

Fortunately, it has started to become more and more common for museums to welcome this target group. Today, museums consider themselves to be educational locations and meeting points with a mission to be as inclusive as possible, and they seek to include people of all ages. This is also the reason behind Stadtmuseum’s new motto “Culture for Young Parents”, which features special parent-friendly offerings, such as the exhibition “Berlin – City of Women” at the Ephraim Palais, where parents with babies get free admission once every month.
Visitors can enjoy a relaxed tour of the exhibition with their babies, without worrying about a thing. The museum visit is specially tailored to the personal needs of young mothers, fathers and grandparents with small children in order to make their time go smoothly. There is a separate quiet space for breast- or bottle-feeding. A changing table is also provided. It is recommended to use a baby sling or other such carrying method in the exhibition; however, there is also a lift that can be used for buggies and prams. The staff is also available to provide a helping hand.

Another feature to top things off: the “live speaker”

The “live speaker” format is a particularly good fit, because it’s very flexible. Talking and spending time with other people is as good for mothers and fathers as it is for small children. When parents have to take a moment for their baby’s needs, they have the option of putting the conversation on hold, or breaking into smaller groups and addressing any specific questions or interests that other participants might have. The topic of the exhibition speaks first and foremost to contemporary young mothers. Due to the fact that women’s social conditions were comparatively more difficult in the past, and their rights much more limited, these Berliner women can be seen as positive and powerful role models.

Discovering new things together

Many young parents have already gotten to know each other at pre-birth or PEKiP classes and go to exhibitions together. Everyday life often offers too few opportunities to engage with art, culture, history and society. It’s an advantage that young parents are going through a similar phase of their lives together, because the children are also around the same age. The special melodies of infancy, such as crying or screaming, are not seen as disturbances in the exhibition. To the contrary, the babies can appreciate each other’s skills and have social contact on their own level. Visitors find the mixture of various generations to be stimulating. Positive feedback that I’ve heard during conversations at the exhibition has given me the personal impression that this new format is being received very well.

Claudia Wasow-Kania M.A., art historian, curator, freelance journalist, mediator. Among other things, she works as a freelance museum education specialist for Stadtmuseum Berlin and is the “live speaker” at “Culture for Young Parents”.

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