Behind the scenes ... the inner workings of a museum: Sophia Vassiloupoulou - trainee, Museum of Islamic Art


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.

Sophia Vassiloupoulou - trainee, Museum of Islamic Art

What does your typical workday consist of?
As my two-year traineeship covers different areas, my work changes depending on what phase and project I'm involved in. For a while, I've been helping to prepare the special exhibition 'Roads of Arabia' that will open in a few days. Several weeks ago, my table was full of paper - texts and pictures for the catalogue - but now I spend most of my time in the exhibition rooms. There's still so much to do: set up the objects, mount the captions, clean the display cases and spot any mistakes… Lots of variety!

Has there been one particularly memorable event in the course of your career?
Working in the museum is always interesting and varied, but my first trip as a courier particularly fascinated me. It was to Paris, and every step of the way from the Berlin depot to the exhibition in Paris I had to accompany the six artworks that were being sent on loan. It began with the packing of the objects in the Pergamon Museum and the shipping of the climate controlled crates and ended with documenting the condition of the objects and hanging the Indian paintings in frames on the walls of the Musée Guimet, where the exhibition was being set up at an incredible tempo.

What do the National Museums in Berlin mean to you personally?
At the National Museums in Berlin in general and in particular at the Museum for Islamic Art, terms like culture, dialogue, exchange and openness are a big priority and I can really identify with that. I enjoy the notion that I'm making some contribution to the cultural offerings of Berlin, even if just a small one.