Museumjung is a new outreach project of the Museum für Gestaltung Zürich. It aims to make society’s young voices heard and to bring them into the museum. A conversation with project manager Nicola von Albrecht about being curious to learn from the young generation.
Leona Veronesi: What is Museumjung about?
Nicola von Albrecht: Schools are laboratories of tomorrow’s society. In this sense, we want to integrate a local school into our project as an echo chamber for forward-looking museum work. Museumjung is intended to function as a mirror that serves internal museum reflection. The project focuses on the cultural heritage preserved in our collections and on social participation in that heritage — especially among younger members of society.
That sounds like a pioneering venture in the Swiss museum landscape.
We are seeking to offer children and young people more differentiated and individual access to our collections than museums usually do. We need their opinions and ideas! After all, they are a kind of “indicator species” for developments in society as a whole. We are very eager to learn from them and also willing to implement the project results in future everyday museum life.
What specifically would you like to learn from young people?
We would like schoolchildren and young people to tell us what the collections (might) mean to them in relation to the global and local issues they are concerned with, what they are currently engaging with, and which objects in the museum fascinate them and why. Do the collections speak to them at all? What role might design education play in this regard? What makes the museum a lively place for young people? Where and how do they want to get involved? How can the “museum” as an institution become part of their cultural identity(ies)? Which conventions and routines in museum work might also need to be changed?
You have three years to answer these questions. Such a long project is a
novelty in the Museum für Gestaltung Zürich’s outreach programmes.
Time is a major factor in collaborative processes. Those involved need to commit time and energy, as well as reciprocate, to establish sustainable cooperation structures. Thanks to the support of the Stiftung für Kunst, Kultur und Geschichte, we now have the chance to pursue such an ambitious and resource-intensive project.
How did the idea for this project arise?
During my time at the Werkbundarchiv – Museum der Dinge in Berlin, our cooperation with a school under the motto “The Museum – a School of Things” served as a kind of think tank for museum work dedicated less to representing cultural heritage than to community participation. That was a great experience and encouraged me to launch a similar project in Zurich.
What results are you hoping for, and how will they impact the museum?
Children and young people tend to associate the museum as an institution with restrictions rather than with creative stimulation, pleasurable learning, individual development and personal engagement. Museumjung is intended to act as a catalyst that can intensify and accelerate the museum’s change process towards greater cultural participation, more participatory exhibition practices, and the further development of innovative design education. By 2024, the results should feed directly into the conception, design and outreach programme of a critical and activating, sensual and pleasurable presentation of the collections at Toni-Areal in a new way and that meets the growing expectations and well developed habits of a young audience in terms of interaction and participation.