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Making Museum Design Participatory

Creating #unserMuseum together

In the next few years, the “Haus der Einwanderungsgesellschaft” (“House of Immigration Society”, working name) will be coming to the heart of Cologne's Kalk district. There permanent and temporary exhibitions will explore how migration has been inscribed on German history and how it has shaped the ways we live together in society. The project DOMiDLabs: Making Museum Design Participatory grew out of DOMiD’s wish for wider community to be involved in the development and formation of the museum.

DOMiDLabs is sponsored by the German Federal Cultural Foundation from 2021 through 2024. The goal of our project is to develop design concepts in a participatory way based on different topics in four laboratories (labs). Each lab will run for about eleven months and will conclude with an exhibition. The ideas and findings resulting from labs will be presented to the public in these exhibitions, and visitors will test and comment on them. The exhibitions will be displayed in various locations in Cologne between 2022 and 2024.

In the labs we will work through a variety of questions together, such as: How can people meet and interact with each other in the museum, and how do we create opportunity for new encounters? What would an exhibition look like that would enable the museum to react to current debates? How can topics and stories be respectfully exhibited? The answers will help DOMiD to create a multifaceted and engaging museum.

Do you have questions about the DOMiDLabs project? Please send us an e-mail at: labs@domid.org

The Laboratories

#1 Meeting point museum - The "House of the Immigration Society" as a place of encounter

In the Meet Up! lab, we – together with people from Cologne Kalk – are tackling the topic "Encounter(s) in the Immigration Society", and asking the question of what an exhibition needs to invite visitors to engage in new encounters.

The lab takes place across multiple workshops. These are organized and led by Danielle Kuijten (Heritage Concepting, Amsterdam) together with DOMiD staff members Sandra Vacca and Azziza B. Malanda. The workshops are additionally supported and guided by the architecture collective raumlaborberlin. In coordination with the team, raumlaborberlin is taking on the design and construction of the exhibition.

The result of the collaborative work is an open exhibition of objects, maps, and boxes that can be explored, commented, and added to. Visitors are invited to meet each other, to encounter narratives, places and objects from Kalk - and elsewhere - as well as to contribute their own. In this way, a dynamic place is created in which somewhat different exhibition experiences can be experienced together. More information on the exhibition

#2 Mind the Gap! – Exhibiting What’s Missing

In every collection, and in every museum, there are missing objects as well as missing narratives – smaller or bigger gaps. The DOMiD collection also has such gaps. One of these gaps has been identified as LGBTIQA+ perspectives, raising the following questions: How can DOMiD's planned migration museum deal with gaps (in terms of design) in its permanent exhibition? In which ways can the LGBTIQA+ stories from within the migration society be told? Why are there (so far) only few objects and testimonies to this history? How do we deal with this gap in the DOMiD collection?

To address these questions, Lab #02 will bring together people with migration histories and experiences in LGBTIQA+ contexts as well as the DOMiD project team, a person to develop and implement the lab concept, and exhibition builders. The goal of this joint lab work is to create more attention and visibility for the aforementioned topic and its diverse life realities while also trying to break down problematic definitions and projections.

At regular meetings, the team exchanged personal and social LGBTIQA+ narratives and topics. The team then developed and tested design elements that translate the notion of "gap" visually and spacially.

In the exhibition Mind The Gap! Narratives and Questions from LGBTIQA+ Migrants, the results of Lab #02 will be presented from 31.03. – 04.05.2023 at the Kulturbunker Köln-Mülheim. Mind The Gap! demonstrates how gaps can be dealt with in terms of content and design. Learn more about the exhibition

For further information on Lab #02 and the project DOMiDLabs please visit domidlabs.de.


The Lab team has agreed on using the term LGBTIQA+ as an abbreviation for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex, queer, asexual and + for further diverse sexual orientations and gender identities. The German translation of the term is LSBTIQA+, standing for: Lesben, Schwule, Bisexuelle, trans* Personen, inter Personen, queere Personen, asexuelle Personen and + for further sexual and gender identities.

#3 Re-Act! – The Design of (Re-)Active Elements

The kick-off meeting of Lab #03 took place in June 2023. It was attended by numerous people from urban society who had responded to a public call from DOMiDLabs. Together with İdil Efe (Berlin), Kollektiv Plus X (Leipzig), Sandra Vacca and Azziza B. Malanda (both DOMiDLabs), formed the lab team.

In terms of content, the third lab focussed on the following questions: How did and do people arrive in our society? How are they perceived, treated and seen here? What role do gender, racist attributions, social background and financial circumstances play in this? Or to put it another way: What is a person worth?

In addition to this, we jointly considered how a (re-)active permanent exhibition could be designed to take up current debates and the latest findings and to offer the public opportunities to add to and comment on them.

Lab#03 was organised in various workshops in which the participants contributed personal stories, thoughts and perspectives. These were gradually translated into design elements over the course of the lab process.

The results of the joint work will be on display in the Alte Feuerwache Köln hall from 20 January to 28 February 2024.

Information about the lab can be found here and at domidlabs.de.

#4 Trigger Warning! – Sensitive Objects and Topics in a Multi-Perspective Exhibition

In its exhibitions and programs, DOMiD deals with topics such as racism, war, flight and persecution. The objects on display and the stories told require both a critical and sensitive approach. Over the years, the DOMiD team members have experienced a wide range of reactions themselves and in discussions with exhibition visitors and workshop participants. Sadness, nostalgia, anger, shame, but also pride, melancholy, excitement and joy: sometimes it was objects, sometimes situations, sometimes topics, sometimes stories that suddenly triggered intense emotions - both positive and negative.

With focus on our nationwide migration museum being created in Cologne-Kalk, Lab #04 "Caution Trigger" poses the following questions: How can objects and stories that trigger strong feelings be sensitively displayed in an exhibition? Where do we encounter these feelings, with which senses do we experience them? How can we capture feelings, react to them, give them space? How can we as a museum find a creative and spacious way of dealing with them?

As the DOMiDLabs team, we dream of a space that, in the best case scenario, shows us what we long for in a society: A little more compassion.

Deniz Weber is the curator of Lab #04 and Studio Quack is responsible for the design and construction of the final exhibition.

Further details and information about the lab will be announced here and at domidlabs.de.

The DOMiDLabs Project Team

Sandra Vacca | Project Management

Sandra Vacca | Project Management

Azziza B. Malanda | Press and Public Relations | Deputy Project Management

Azziza B. Malanda | Press and Public Relations | Deputy Project Manager

Carmen Steins | Project Administration

Carmen Steins | Project Administration

More about the project on domidlabs.de


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