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The Deutsches Auswandererhaus’ mission is not only to run its exhibition system, which, although spectacular, appealing and rich in technology, always requires some form of mediation and space for discussion and reflection. The educational activities in the museum include film projections, debates, book presentations, conferences, concerts, open-air tango-bars, temporary exhibitions, collaborations with universities, research centres, museums and magazines.

Among the many temporary exhibitions organised, we note “Pacific Palisades, California USA”—about German writers who escaped from Nazi Germany, 2006—, “Off to Buenos Aires! German emigrants and refugees in the 20th Century” (2008), “The Flight After the Flood. New Orleans–the city left behind” (2009) and “The Yellow Ticket. Trafficking in Girls” (2012), the result of a research project which involved descendants of Germans resident in New Orleans, with the aim of sensitising public awareness of the link between migration and climate change, and thus shifting the focus from historical processes to contemporary issues and challenges.

the compact volume of the “emigration” building emerges a transparent globe, a tribute to the travellers who left to cross the ocean (they are also celebrated in a monument located on the quay). The concrete wings, or “sails,” hint at the handkerchiefs waved at the moment of farewells. The elliptical basement is in concrete, while the upper rectangular level is covered in wood. The same covering is adopted in the new wing, giving a sense of harmony and unity to the complex. The opening of the new immigration wing emphasised the museum’s argument that emigration and immigration are actually two faces of the same coin—the eternal theme of mankind on the move, which also includes refugees, seasonal workers, asylum seekers, and all other categories of people who leave their homeland, be it for a short or extended period of time. “Moving stories” is the motto of the museum, and so reads a press release by the museum (2012):

The museum is located opposite the New Harbour, opened in 1852. The place itself is representative of the history displayed inside. The genius loci here is of tremendous importance, and the architecture plays cleverly with the contiguity of inside and outside, in a sort of hyper-realistic attitude, overlapping the “artificial” experience of the inside with the “real” nature beyond the windows.

“The didactic presentation and communication of migration as a human behaviour is the main focus of the work at the German Emigration Center. Migration is understood as all movement: from classical emigration to workmigration to flight and persecution. Migration is not looked upon as temporary, but rather as a behaviour which human beings resort to when personal living conditions face the threat of a change for the worse, or when personal safety is put at risk. […] Migration is therefore a permanent phenomenon and not a finalised historical incident. Migration itself is looked upon at the German Emigration Center as a whole process which starts with the socialisation of the potential migrant in his home country, and ends with integration in the destination country. We summarise this whole process with the key word ‘acculturation.’”

The overall surface is 3,200 square meters. From

The personal and direct experience of this discourse is facilitated by the visitor’s identification with the migrant’s biography. Indeed, historical biographies constitute the heart of the museum and the key it has chosen to use.

All the texts, both written and audio, are in English and German. “News,” a magazine containing information about the museum’s activities, is published regularly. ææ an immersive experience

The two buildings, the first dedicated to emigration (2005) and the more recent one to immigration (2012), are aligned geometrical blocks, parallel to the harbour, with a beautiful promenade in front, and are linked via a bridge.


European Museums in the 21st Century: Setting the Framework - Vol. 2  

This book grew out of the earliest work of the MeLa Research Field 6, “Envisioning 21st Century Museums,” aimed at exploring current trends...

European Museums in the 21st Century: Setting the Framework - Vol. 2  

This book grew out of the earliest work of the MeLa Research Field 6, “Envisioning 21st Century Museums,” aimed at exploring current trends...