The German Tank Museum: A blood diamond as a regional touristic crown jewel?
The German Tank Museum Munster is an important attraction in the touristic region of Lüneburg Heath. Of the over four million tourists that visit the region annually, over 100.000 visit the Tank Museum, making it one of the top 4% museums in Germany. This success is partially based on the fact that for over 30 years the tanks and guns were presented clean and clinical. The narrative centered on technical facts and operational aspects; suffering and dying were not part of the exhibition. Thus the objects could be enjoyed as technological masterpieces without dark and depressing undertones. But now the museum is in a phase of radical renewal. Right now the museum is fundraising for a complete remodelling of the permanent exhibition. The concept includes dying and suffering, killing and wounding as core themes and will present them in different ways. Among them will be explicit, drastic photographs of violence - an approach that is unheard of in modern German museology.
Implementing "dark" and therefore potentially disturbing elements in a successful touristic destination seems like commercial suicide to some and like museological integrity to others - sometimes both. Discussions are inevitable: The town if Munster as one body responsible for the museum (besides the German Armed Forces) has to consider both aspects: On the one hand Munster needs the money from the highest possible number of tickets per year, on the other hand the town also has to ensure the quality of the museum's work - and one-dimensional, uncritical exhibitions are outmoded. Then again such uncritical approaches, maybe even some glorification of the German armies are exactly what the more conservative faction of the museum's booster club wants, as well as a large portion of the over 65,000 facebook fans, condemning the new approach as typical fort he German "Schuldkult" (cult of guilt). The majority of potential sponsors from the cultural scene on the other hand firmly demands a critical approach - but is divided regarding the question if drastic photographic violence is one step too far.
Ralf Raths (*1977) studied History and Political Science in Hanover and was Visiting Lecturer for Military History there from 2005 to 2011. He works at the German Tank Museum since 2008 and is Director since 2013. He is a member of the German Section of the International Commission of Military History since 2013. His publications cover military history as well as museology.
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