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  • Writer's pictureDr Julien Drouart

Ceramics Museum: A Citizen Initiative

Updated: Jun 21, 2023

The Ceremics Museum is a model of local initiative.

The Ceramics Museum is, first and foremost, a social and civic endeavor: the drive to conserve heritage and to convene in an intimate setting.

A Visit Is Optional. It Is Also a Personal Favourite.

Located in one of the most beautiful sites in the Charlottenburg district, a very old house plays host to the Ceramics Museum. Typically, the architecture of an exhibition space is designed to support the museography. In this case, the relationship is reversed and the collections inhabit the building to enhance its value. This building is indeed significant, as it is one of the last remnants of old Charlottenburg, from a time when the Greater Berlin we know today did not exist.

Initially a leisure resort for some of the Prussian aristocracy seeking tranquility and relaxation, Charlottenburg quickly flourished to become a major economic and demographic center, second only to Berlin in Brandenburg, then on the other side of the Tiergarten. To counter this influence, initiatives to create a unified province around Berlin were numerous but were met with constant resistance from the local elites.

Eventually, the concept of a megalopolis Berlin was realized at the end of the First World War with the annexation of 7 cities and nearly 60 surrounding municipalities. The irony is rich, as it was not Berlin seeking to aggregate its wealthy neighbors, but the suburbs seeking to counteract the threatening Marxist influence. Built in 1712 and declared a heritage site in 1983, the house on Schustehrusstrasse revives old Charlottenburg, and it is the task of the Ceramics Museum to preserve it.

A Disappointing Exhibition Area, but...

The museum is very welcoming, and one enters it as if stepping into a house. The entire place has been renovated, with lovely pastel colors complementing more modern spaces, suitable for displaying collections of fine ceramics, Andalusian and Italian majolica, with some oriental and raku pieces adding a certain charm to the place. The porcelain works are displayed alongside stoneware ones in an airy and pleasing museography.

However, apart from the museum's reception staff, the visitor will find almost no information, whether about the pieces themselves, the artists, or even the different techniques involved in firing or glazing pieces. The history of ceramics is not covered, and, indeed, the collections are primarily contemporary.

Moreover, the lack of educational interaction, the limited number of pieces on display, and the ultimately small size of the exhibition may leave a sense of emptiness, considering that this is less a museum than a gallery. It should be noted that the temporary exhibitions are frequently renewed and very diverse.

It is only after leaving an outbuilding used as an exhibition space that the visitor will be surprised and charmed by the museum's enchanting inner courtyard, where old-fashioned romanticism prevails.

This Initiative Should Be Encouraged and Supported

In absolute terms, the museum space is rather limited and the collections unfortunately too small. One will quickly get the hang of it, especially as the ceramics are presented in their most profound form, namely modern art.

Nevertheless, a good museum is not necessarily exhaustive or superlative. This museum occupies a building that was once threatened with destruction and was preserved as a result of citizen mobilization. Its continuation has been ensured by the members of a support association who not only welcome and guide visitors, but also acquire new pieces. The museum's volunteer staff is thus extremely competent, driven only by their passion for ceramic art and their commitment to bringing an exemplary civic initiative to life.

The fact that most of the museum's acquisitions are bequests from former members raises the question of memory and continuity. Even better, this museum space preserves and enhances architectural heritage on a human scale. The approach is commendable and part of a local and participatory ethos.

Reasons to Visit

  • Preservation of the architectural heritage

  • Warm welcome and highly competent staff

  • An intimate setting to enjoy on a sunny afternoon

Reasons to Skip

  • Small collections

  • Limited information

  • Unusual opening hours and a relatively high price


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