Democratising the Museum: Citizens' Assemblies in Bonn and Dresden

The question being asked of citizens in both cities is:

"How should the institution evolve to remain a relevant, welcoming, inclusive, and diverse public space that enables social dialogue on the most pressing issues of these rapidly changing times?"

DemocracyNext and Design & Democracy are collaborating on groundbreaking Citizens’ Assemblies on democratising the museum.

Bundeskunsthalle and SKD, two major cultural institutions - one in the East and one in the West of Germany - are each commissioning a Citizens' Assembly that will take place in autumn 2023 about democratising the museum. Their aim is too re-evaluate the relevance of cultural institutions in regards to their broader role in society. This will be the first time that cultural institutions will implement deliberative processes in this way anywhere in the world. 

The question being asked of citizens in both cities is: "How should the institution (Bundeskunsthalle / Dresden Kunstgewerbemuseum / SKD) evolve to remain a relevant, welcoming, inclusive, and diverse public space that enables social dialogue on the most pressing issues of these rapidly changing times?"

Each assembly was comprised of 30-35 people selected by lottery to be broadly representative of the Bonn and Dresden Communities and will met for 3-4 days of informed deliberation. 

The assemblies will be followed by exhibits on the history and future of democracy with both museums in Bonn and Dresden. The exhibits are scheduled to open in spring 2024 at the Bundeskunsthalle (Art and Exhibition Hall of the Federal Republic of Germany) in Bonn and in 2025 at the Dresden Kunstgewerbemuseum / SKD (Decorative Arts Museum), showcasing historical artefacts such as ballots, posters, parliamentary architecture, as well as exploring the ways in which the democratic paradigm is currently undergoing transformation.

Both the exhibits and assemblies pose questions raised by the last few decades of turmoil in democratic processes and institutions. Traditional systems are in crisis, and tend to incentivise short-termism, re-election, and risk avoidance to the detriment of long-term thinking, the public good, complexity, and innovation.

What could new democratic institutions look like, if we started by asking what is the best way of taking collective public decisions? What would new democratic spaces - both physical and virtual - look like to help fulfil these principles of genuine equality and inclusion?

Further details on the Bundeskunsthalle Assembly and the Assembly report (in German).

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