The Museum of Utopia and Daily Life unites the Documentation Centre of Everyday Culture of the GDR in Eisenhüttenstadt and the Beeskow Art Archive. In view of the collections’ scope and composition, with 170,000 objects of everyday culture and 18,500 works of visual and applied art, as well as amateur works, the museum preserves an exceptional inventory of GDR cultural history.
In Eisenhüttenstadt, one can also experience the GDR’s architectural and urban-planning heritage. The model city, which was once conceived as the “first socialist city” in the GDR, now forms the largest interconnected heritage area in Germany.
The Museum of Utopia and Everyday Life presents day-to-day culture, art and architecture in the field of tension between aspiration and reality, and between socialist designs and actual daily life. In the GDR, the promise of a better society contrasted with the reality of many people’s lives. The ideal was ideologically appropriated as a state utopia and discredited. The Museum of Utopia and Everyday Life is dedicated to that contradiction. It presents the interaction between everyday culture, art, architecture and the social system.
The Museum of Utopia and Everyday Life sheds light on history using the visual and material culture of the GDR, offering perspectives on contemporary themes such as upheaval in the working world, equality, the structural transformation of cities and the future of a society orientated towards environmental consumption and growth. The collections provide a wide range of historical stimuli on such contexts.Close
The museum has systematically collected, researched and documented objects of material everyday culture since 1993. The results of the work are presented to the public in the form of exhibitions and publications.
In 2012, the Documentation Centre’s non-profit organisation status was terminated after municipal funds were cancelled. From 2013 to 2015, it again operated as a department of the Eisenhüttenstadt City Museum. Since 2016, the Documentation Centre has been funded by the District of Oder-Spree and the State of Brandenburg.
In 2001, the museum opened its first permanent exhibition, “Life in the GDR”. It was followed in 2012 by a new permanent exhibition, “Everyday life: GDR”. It was enabled by funds from the Minister of State for Culture and the Media, and the Ministry of Science, Research and Culture of the State of Brandenburg.
In 1999, the Documentation Centre of Everyday Culture of the GDR became a non-profit organisation, largely funded by the City of Eisenhüttenstadt, the District of Oder-Spree and the State of Brandenburg.
In 1996, the Eisenhüttenstadt city council made a fundamental decision to develop the Documentation Centre further. The same year, funding from the European Union and the State of Brandenburg was approved to renovate the museum building in accordance with preservation regulations. The work was implemented in 1998/99.
In 1994, the Documentation Centre found a location in a historical crèche in Housing Complex II. In November 1995, it presented its first special exhibition there “Tempolinsen und P 2”, which continued as a touring exhibition. It attracted great interest and established the Documentation Centre’s reputation among the general public and experts alike as a specialist museum of everyday GDR culture.
In 1992, the idea was conceived of establishing a museum of everyday GDR culture in the planned city of Eisenhüttenstadt, which was founded in 1950/51. Following a decision by the city council, work to establish the facility began in 1993, initially as a department of the Eisenhüttenstadt City Museum. The same year, the historian Andreas Ludwig was appointed Director of Eisenhüttenstadt’s city museums and commissioned to establish a collection of GDR everyday culture. Acquiring stock for this collection was a participatory process, based on decisions by private and institutional donors, largely without defined curatorial acceptance criteria.Close
Until April 30, 2019, an administration agreement between the states of Brandenburg, Berlin and Mecklenburg West Pomerania, and the District of Oder-Spree determined the operations of the Kunstarchiv Beeskow, which has preserved, exhibited and researched the art collections of GDR parties, mass organisations and state bodies since the early 1990s. After the states of Berlin and Mecklenburg-West Pomerania declared their departure from the administrative agreement, the Beeskow Art Archive was largely funded by the District of Oder-Spree with more comprehensive support from the State of Brandenburg.
Termination of the administrative agreement between the states of Brandenburg, Berlin and Mecklenburg-West Pomerania. In future, each state will contractually coordinate the location of its part of the collection individually with the District of Oder-Spree. The State of Brandenburg now funds the Beeskow Art Archive more comprehensively.
The collection’s general inventory begins in late 2015 and is completed on April 30, 2019.
The new depot, which enables improved storage, visibility and accessibility, is officially inaugurated on May 29, 2019 as an open depot.
Support from the funding programme “Invest Ost” enables the new equipment of the depot facility in the former building district archive on the “Spree Island” in Beeskow. The art collection’s relocation is completed in late 2018/early 2019.
Florentine Nadolni becomes Director of the Beeskow Art Archive.
Negotiations between the District of Oder-Spree, the Municipality of Beeskow and the State of Berlin on housing the 15,000 objects from the (West) Berlin Artothek der Sozialen Künstlerförderung in the Art Archive’s future building end without a result.
The general inventory commissioned by the States of Brandenburg, Berlin and Mecklenburg-West Pomerania begins.
In October, the architectural office Max Dudler, which had been contracted by the Municipality of Beeskow and the District of Oder-Spree, presents its designs for the Art Archive’s new building. Construction work has not yet begun due to a lack of funds.
Joint project “Bildatlas: Kunst in der DDR”: an image database of the paintings between 1945 and 1990 is established with over 20,000 objects in 165 collections (museums, special depots, companies and private facilities); directed by Prof. Dr. Karl-Siegbert Rehberg from the Institute of Sociology at the TU Dresden. The project partners are the Leibniz Centre for Contemporary History Potsdam, the Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden and the Beeskow Art Archive.
Dr. Wolfgang de Bruyn assumes his new role at the KleistMuseum in Frankfurt/Oder. Dr. Ilona Weser, Head of the Department of Education, Health and Social Affairs at the District of Oder-Spree, becomes the new Director of the Beeskow Art Archive.
The exhibition “Ein weites Feld. Landwirtschaft in der Malerei der DDR” (“A broad field. Landscape in GDR painting”) with paintings from the Beeskow Art Archive and the BauernGalerie in Schloss Elisabethenburg is presented in cooperation with the Meininger Museen and supported by the Sparkassen-Kulturstiftung Hessen-Thüringen and the Thuringia Ministry of Culture.
The exhibition “Zwischen Himmel und Erde, Landschaftsbilder aus der DDR” (“Between heaven and earth, landscape images from the GDR”) is presented in cooperation with the Haus der Brandenburgisch-Preußischen Geschichte in Potsdam and supported by the Stiftung Deutsches Rundfunkarchiv DRA, the Kulturstiftung des Bundes, the Ostdeutsche Sparkassenstiftung im Land Brandenburg and Kulturland Brandenburg e.V.
The administrative agreement “Kunstarchiv” (“Art Archive”) is closed between the states of Berlin, Brandenburg and Mecklenburg-West Pomerania. The Board of Trustees agrees on the name of “Kunstarchiv Beeskow”. The State of Brandenburg finds an operator to administrate the archive collection within Brandenburg: the Department of Culture and Sport of the District of Oder-Spree, led by Dr. Wolfgang de Bruyn. Marina Aurich, Director of the District Archive, assumes responsibility for cataloguing the collection. The offices are situated on the grounds of the Burg Beeskow.
Herbert Schirmer leaves the Burg Beeskow and Tilman Schladebach becomes its new Director.
Following the exhibition “… und der Zukunft zugewandt!” (“… and looking to the future!”), which is presented in 1997, the exhibition of works entitled “Rahmen-Wechsel: Fragen an Kunstsammlungen der Parteien und Massenorganisationen der DDR” (“Change of frames: Questions on art collections owned by GDR parties and mass organisations”) opens in November 1998, causing a considerable reaction by the general public and the media, as well as controversial discussions among the expert public.
The inventory of paintings, graphics, sculptures, medals, handcrafted textiles, caricatures, photographs and posters is completed. Work on the stock catalogue of paintings, graphics and sculptures begins. In September, the centre presents the painting exhibition “Die Schönheit der Macht” (“The Beauty of Power”), which opens with an international symposium on the relationship between art and dictatorship.
A warehouse near the Burg Beeskow is converted into a painting depot for a total of 20,000 artworks by the District of Oder-Spree. The participating federal states, the district council and the interest group “neue bildende kunst” in Berlin close agreements that regulate the art’s handling to a very large extent. In October, the “Sammlungs- und Dokumentationszentrum Kunst der DDR” (“Collection and Documentation Centre of GDR Art”) employs a research associate, a depot administrator and a librarian. The first loans from the Documentation Centre are presented by The Workers Museum in Copenhagen. The exhibitions “Querformat 1” and “Querformat 2” (“Landscape Format 1+2”) are presented to the public. The Senate for Cultural Affairs in Berlin decides to move the collection, which was originally owned by the East Berlin City Council and had thus become the property of the Berlin Senate, to Beeskow.
The Treuhandanstalt passes on the artworks originally stored in the building belonging to the NDPD party to the states of Berlin, Brandenburg, Saxony, Saxony-Anhalt, Thuringia and Mecklenburg-West Pomerania. The “special estate” is allocated according to where it was found and becomes the property of the respective states. The states of Mecklenburg-West Pomerania, Brandenburg and Berlin decide to pool their collection and store it in Beeskow. A research and recording office is established at the fortress in Königstein, operated by the Cultural Fund of the Free State of Saxony, while a documentation office to record the cultural assets of the State of Saxony-Anhalt is set up in Halle/Saale. The art collection of the Vereinigung der gegenseitigen Bauernhilfe (“Peasants Mutual Aid association”), which became the property of the Free State of Saxony, is stored at the Meiningen Museums. A three-year programme funded by the Treuhand plans joint processing of the stock. The administration is to be led by the Burg Beeskow.
In December, the Deutsches Historisches Museum (DHM) in Berlin presents a symposium entitled “In search of the lost state”. The event is aimed at critically engaging with the commissioned art in the GDR, addressing the ongoing approach to around 12,000 artworks that were commissioned by the parties and mass organisations of the GDR and subsequently secured and administrated as “special assets” by the Treuhand. Academics recommend the establishment of a research centre so that the art can be accessed for research.
As directed by the committee of the Stiftung Kulturfonds, the artworks collected in 1990 are distributed among the former GDR states. The Burg Beeskow receives most of the artworks allocated to the State of Brandenburg (300 paintings, 4,000 graphics, 70 sculptures).
Following a decision by the district council, work begins to convert the Burg Beeskow into an eastern Brandenburg cultural and educational centre. At the same time, work begins on establishing a contemporary art collection for the Berlin/Brandenburg region. Herbert Schirmer, the last Minister of Culture of the GDR, becomes Director of the Burg Beeskow in 1990.
On the instructions of the last Minister of Culture of the GDR, all districts collect artworks commissioned by the GDR Kulturfonds and exhibited in public buildings.
Heritage area of Eisenhüttenstadt
The building of the The Museum of Utopia and Everyday Life in Eisenhüttenstadt is situated in the midst of one of the largest heritage areas in Germany. It was built as a crèche in 1953 and used as a kindergarten until 1990. The building, which has been renovated according to preservation regulations, is part of a Socialist model urban development built in 1951, initially known as Stalinstadt and then renamed Eisenhüttenstadt in 1961.
The new city accommodated workers of the new steel works there, known as the “Eisenhüttenkombinat Ost”, and is an example of social and urban-planning strategies of the GDR in the early years of its existence. It was the fist newly founded city in Germany after 1945. An entire city was built there, based on the “16 Principles of Urban Planning”. It also conformed to the model of a “city at the factory”, which was developed for new industrial centres in the Soviet Union from 1930 onwards.
All of the GDR’s construction styles can be found in Eisenhüttenstadt. Today’s museum building is part of the core of the city, which was built between 1951 and 1961. It forms the centre of the “Children’s Combination”, which consisted of three buildings and served Housing Complex II. The building’s former use is reflected in a leaded window design by Walter Womacka.
Integrating the museum into this historical topography ensures a diverse extension of the tangible history within and outside the museum. The permanent exhibition presents Eisenhüttenstadt in the context of different concepts for new cities. Visitors can use the interactive map of Eisenhüttenstadt to plan an individual tour of the model city.
Architectural and historical guided tours of Eisenhüttenstadt are provided by the city’s Tourist Information.Close
Dr. Angelika Weißbach
Tel. +49 (0)3366-35 2734
Project Officer Beeskow
Tel. +49 (0)3366-35 2736
Depot Administration, Restoration
Tel. +49 (0)336635 2733
Carmen Schönfeld, Britt Scheffler, Sabine Noack, Ramona Hammer
Visitor Supervision & Informations
Tel. +49 (0)3364 – 41 73 55
The Museum of Utopia and Everyday Life supervises interns studying museum-related or clearly historical courses at universities and universities of applied sciences.
We offer: a project-related internship focusing on the collection, exhibitions and visitor supervision. The relevant internship focus is aimed at the current focus of work at the museum and, as far as possible, the interests of the applicants. We agree on an individually tailored internship with you with binding supervision.
We expect: a high degree of responsibility and commitment, as well as the willingness to actively contribute to a small team.
Requirements: voluntary, required internship or pre-internship for studies as universities, for a duration of no less than four weeks (we recommend longer internship periods).
We regret that we cannot provide payment for your internship.
Funding and partners
The Museum of Utopia and Everyday Life unites the Documentation Centre of Everyday Culture of the GDR in Eisenhüttenstadt and the Beeskow Art Archive – institutions of the Landkreis Oder-Spree and co-funded by the Federal State of Brandenburg.
Project funding for the permanent exhibition „Alltag: DDR“, Eisenhüttenstadt
Funding is also provided by the Minister of State for the Federal Government Commissioner for Culture and the Arts based on a decision by the German Bundestag, and by the Ministry of Science, Research and Culture of the State of Brandenburg
Forum Kulturerbe der DDR e. V.
c/o Burg Beeskow
Frankfurter Straße 23
Tel. 03366 35 2715