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Behind the scenes ... the inner workings of a museum: Dr Dieter Scholz - Curator, New National Gallery

30.03.2012
Neue Nationalgalerie

Over 4.5 million people visited the museums and galleries of the National Museums in Berlin last year. Spectacular special exhibitions, small presentations and the museums' permanent collections offered an array of cultural highlights that everyone could enjoy: whether expert, schoolchild or tourist, every trip to the museum is a personal experience that leaves behind lasting impressions and new insights.

But who are the people who work for the National Museums in Berlin? What jobs and professions are required to keep such a large operation like the Berlin Museums with its 19 museums, 4 institutes and 4,729,856 artworks running smoothly? All of the people presented here contribute to the success and the existence of this universal museum that collects, preserves and studies art and culture from the beginning of time to the present day. They all work behind the scenes and only rarely meet our visitors on site. We want to lift the curtain a little and offer a glimpse backstage at the inner workings of a museum.

Dr. Dieter Scholz - Curator, New National Gallery

What does your typical workday consist of?
Looking at post, going to meetings, discussing projects, selecting exhibits, working out hanging schemes, calculating budgets, answering requests for loans, confirming insurance rates, writing press releases and catalogue texts, approving designs for posters and postcards, showing people around, discussing restoration issues, archival research, visiting art studios and collectors, managing trainee staff, answering queries from other state bodies. Of course, not all of that happens in just one day. And, if during the day I end up in one of our exhibition rooms, I take a moment to enjoy the original artworks. It's my way of refuelling like at a petrol station.

Has there been one particularly memorable event in the course of your career?
The beauty of it is that special events occur regularly. Shortly before an exhibition, when the shipping crates are opened and you first get to see the artworks with which you've been preoccupied for so long - it's like Christmas every time. Meeting artists also makes a lasting impression - I once met Sigmar Polke at a retrospective in Hamburger Bahnhof in 1997 who was just as full of life, passion and humour in person as his pictures are.

What do the National Museums in Berlin mean to you personally?
The diversity of the collections makes the National Museums in Berlin something very special and enables invaluable internal cooperation. The exchange with other staff members broadens the mind and triggers debate and new questions. If we can share this stimulating atmosphere with visitors then, in my opinion, we have accomplished a fundamental goal of the museums' educational mission.