My Heritage/Museum Placement with the Humbolt University in Berlin: Starting Out

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by Lisa Berry-Waite

Back in May when exams were looming, like many third years I was beginning to think how I could utilise my summer to increase my chances of getting a job after university. As I would be graduating with a degree in History and Politics, and will be starting my MA in History this September, the summer seemed like the perfect opportunity to gain some more experience in heritage and museums, the area I want to go into. When I saw MERL were taking applications for a heritage/museum style placement with the Humbolt University in Berlin, I thought I would apply. I was successful and was very much looking forward to flying out to Berlin.

The placement was split into two different sections. The first was an excursion with students and lecturers from the Humbolt University and would involve travelling around a number of heritage sites in Germany and Poland; with the focus quite often being on agriculture, which I really enjoyed coming from a rural background.

The second half was a work placement in the Agrarmuseum Wandlitz (an agriculture museum) just outside of Berlin. Unfortunately, as I had a summer job lined up for the end of June, I was unable to fit this part of the placement into my trip. However, I will be flying out again to Berlin in November fingers crossed to finish the second half of it.

I decided to fly out early to Berlin to do some sightseeing before my placement and was amazed by the history of the city. I was able to visit a number of sites relating to WW2 including Sachsenhausen concentration camp and was completely moved by it, along with the Reichstag and Museum Island. Throughout my subsequent blog posts, you’ll be able to follow my trip and discover the adventures I experienced, from studying medieval architecture to cycling around the Polish countryside.

So look out for my upcoming blog series to discover what I got up to on my travels and the amazing places I was fortunate enough to visit.

Sightseeing in Berlin Day 1

I decided to fly out early to Berlin before my placement started to do some sightseeing having never visited Berlin before. Luckily my flight all went smoothly and, as soon as I reached my hostel, I headed out to explore the surrounding area having found out that Museum Island and the Berlin Cathedral were situated nearby.

Although it may sound like Berlin has a whole island dedicated to museums, it’s not actually an island much to my disappointment (though you do have to cross a bridge to get there). It first began being known as Museum Island in the late 1870s and has continued to be known as this ever since. It consists of five different museums which are absolutely huge and the architecture for each one is breath-taking. The Neues Museum caught my eye in particular with its ancient Egyptian exhibitions. Sadly I didn’t have time to go inside them but you can buy a ticket that gives you entry into all five of them, though you would diffidently need a whole day for that. I discovered that there have been discussions to connect the five museums through underground passages so visitors can spend more time looking at the exhibitions and less time walking from one museum to another which I thought was a good idea.

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Berlin Cathedral is also located on Museum Island this was one of my favourite buildings in Berlin, with it being a main work of Historicist architecture. The inside is just as incredible as the outside so I decided to take a pew for a while to soak it all in (sadly you weren’t allowed to take photos inside). I’d read before I came to Berlin that the dome of the cathedral has some of the best views of the city. The only downside to this was the 270 steps you had to climb. However, once I’d reached the top, the climb up was so worth it. The views were spectacular; you could see for miles. This was defiantly one of the highlights of my visit to Berlin.

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Underneath the cathedral is The Hohenzollern Crypt which is the most important dynastic sepulchre in Germany. What surprised me the most was the vast number of tiny crypts that were there, showing that even royalty had high infant mortality rates. Although this was certainly very interesting to see, it was slightly creepy as well.

After this I had to dash to a presentation at the Humbolt University where I met Dr Leonore Scholz-Irrlitz who was running the placement excursion along with a few other members of staff. This also gave me the chance to meet the German students who would be participating in the excursion.

Although I must admit I didn’t understand a lot of the presentation as it was, of course, in German and my German isn’t the best, it was good to get a better picture of what I would be doing over the next two weeks. Unfortunately I got a bit lost trying to get back to my hostel after the presentation, but Berlin at night was stunning. Walking through Museum Island just as the sun was setting diffidently made getting lost for 45 minutes slightly easier!

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On my way home just over the bridge from Museum Island I came across a bar that had an outside dance floor area. It turns out each evening in the summer there is a different type of dance on, from salsa to jive, you name it, and it’s there. It was such a good way to enjoy the summer evenings I thought with family and friends.

Overall, my first day in Berlin was a success. I managed to a fair bit in the short space of time I had after flying in that morning.

Look out for my next post where I got the chance to visit Checkpoint Charlie, The Holocaust Memorial, and the Berlin Wall, along with a number of other sites. See you soon!

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