“We take care of everyone,” says Doris Wermelt about the mediation approach in the LWL Museum of Art and Culture. “Our projects are not only designed for children. We have concepts for inclusion, for school classes, families, etc. At each exhibition, our team of mediators in the LWL Museum develops concepts on how the topic can be communicated to the various target groups,” the young woman explains.
She finds the theme of peace a particularly exciting challenge, since it is not about a particular artist or an art movement. “We were not sure how the mediation would succeed on such a broad subject, but we were pleasantly surprised,” said the committed cultural scientist. “It’s incredible how many stories we hear every day. Many of our visitors associate something very personal with the topic of peace. Elderly people talk about the Second World War, fugitives about their experiences before or during the escape.”
I ask whether there is a specific objective to be achieved by means of personal mediation. Doris Wermelt answers: “We do not give a clearly defined result of our workshops or guided tours. We want visitors to get involved with the topic. If in the end the perspective was broadened, or a new perspective could be gained, we have achieved our goal”. Doris Wermelt emphasises that above all dialogue and exchange are important for this. “Interestingly, when it comes to peace, it is easy to enter dialogue. Those who come to the exhibition want to exchange ideas and often bring something personal with them. The talks are intense. That’s great,” she tells me.
Signs of the lively exchange can be seen at various places in the LWL Museum exhibition entitled “Paths to Peace”. Right at the beginning there is a showcase entitled “My Piece of Peace”. Here, visitors can bring something that symbolizes peace for them. “This possibility was very well accepted,” said Wermelt. The showcase contains various memories from the Second World War, but also children’s pictures, miniatures and personal objects. There is a little story to every piece that can be read. “It is very touching to learn these things,” says Doris Wermelt.
A second element of dialogue is the wall of notes at the end of the exhibition. Anyone who wants to can leave a personal message about the topic of peace. Doris Wermelt, her colleagues and I all stand in front of this wall for a very long time. There is a lot to discover: Sayings such as “Make peace not war” or “Friede Freude Eierkuchen”. Individual terms or phrases such as “freedom”, “friendship” or “love”. Quotations and stories, but also pictures and paper crafts. “We had only planned the wall next to the exit for the slips of paper. Meanwhile, half the room has filled up. Of course, we think that’s great,” the team is pleased.
Finally, there is a third element which highlights the diversity of the issue of peace. There is a large graffiti wall in the studios. It was set up in the museum for the ” Youth Night ” and has since been filled by children and youth groups. A colorful, witty, profound picture has been created in the meantime, which contains many signs and symbols for peace. Also a form of dialogue and exchange.
And how do the youngest ones deal with the topic of peace? Doris Wermelt explains that they work on the topic with children from the age of four or five. “The little ones are usually specific examples from everyday life: disputes at home or in kindergarden, with other children or adults. These topics are of particular concern to kindergarden children. They have a lot to say about it and want to know a lot about it.” In some cases there were also children who were concerned about the danger of wars. It is therefore very important to enter into dialogue with the younger children in the context of the various projects.
Doris Wermelt has been working at the LWL Museum since 2003. For several years she has been a research assistant in art education. She’s obviously excited about the job. She experiences a lot – including a variety of things that affect her. In a conversation with a fugitive, for example, she once talked about a poster depicting Hitler as a peacemaker who isolated Germany from hostile foreign countries. In it, the visitor recognized a mechanism which, in his opinion, is currently very widespread: peace is often associated with nationalism. All strangers bring trouble and must stay outside. The man who has lived in Germany for many years now sometimes fears that peace in his present homeland Germany will not last. “Since then I have looked at this poster from a different angle,” says Wermelt.
Further interesting insights into the exhibition “Peace. From Antiquity to the Present” and its five associated exhibition venues can be found in this video of the LWL-Museum für Kunst und Kultur, Muenster.