A short history of the cultural education department

The opening of museums for all groups of society was an important cultural policy matter in the 1960s.  The first departments and centres for public relations work were established in West German museums at that time.  Their prime objective was to “advertise through support to groups” and thereby get more people to visit the museums.

Therefore in the autumn of 1966 an “art education programme for secondary school classes” and teacher courses were initiated in collaboration with the schools authority at the Art Museum in Düsseldorf, the predecessor institution to the Kunstpalast Museum.  Entire years of schoolchildren and complete teaching staff visited the art museum over the following months, and just two years later around 7600 schoolchildren took part in the programme.

This led to an education assistant being employed in 1970, with a second position for a museum teacher being created only three years later.

As early as January 1970 creative courses for children took place for the first time in the former rooms of the Hetjens Museum, the so-called “Malhaus” or “painting house” as an addition to the school programmes.  Principally as a result of the considerable demand for painting courses, the museum teachers ultimately received their own budget for their work.

In 1975 12,859 children entered the art museum, most during school visits.  Services for schoolchildren of all ages and from all types of schools remain a focal area of the department’s work to this day.

Another tradition continues to impact on the present day: during experimentation with exhibitions for children at various places in the 70s when the first children’s museums were founded, the Malhaus likewise ran the first exhibitions that children could participate in.  The beginning in 1977 was taken from the Historical Museum in Frankfurt: “Struwelpeter garstig, macht die Kinder artig?“ (nasty shock-headed Peter makes children well-behaved?).  Its own projects followed just one year later.

The art museum in Düsseldorf had to close in June 1979 due to disrepair, and the Malhaus was also demolished.  The museum teachers had temporary quarters in the Orangeriestraße (Altstadt) while building work was taking place.  But its final location was on the ground floor of the museum building.  In September 1984, even before the museum collections reopened, the “Museum für junge Besucher” (museum for young visitors) opened its doors to the first children.  In addition to an exhibition and action area, it also had two adjoining rooms for courses and seminars.

As it had done in the past, in subsequent years the educational department of the art museum defined itself chiefly through its services for schools and children.  The “Arbeitskreis Kunstmuseum” (art museum working group) was established in 1983 to improve support to adult visitors.  Its purpose was to support the educational and public relations work of the art museum.  Modelled on the Kölner Kreis of voluntary staff that had existed since the end of the 70s, it took over numerous public guided tours among other things, thereby relieving the educational department financially and in terms of staffing.  

Only in 2001, with the transfer of operations of the Kunstmuseum Düsseldorf to the Kunstpalast Museum foundation and the realignment of the education department which since then has been called “Cultural Education”, were other main areas added.  In addition to services for children and schools, there is now a broad range of programmes and materials for adults, including various events for young adults such as the activities of the Kunstfans and the Junge Nacht events.  Finally the educational rooms have also been adapted to suit the changed requirements, and were gutted and extended in 2006/07.  The new “Museum studio” is now used equally by children, young people and adults.

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