German Version

How political is museum work?

Museums have always been preservers of culture and history. But how deep does the political dimension of their work reach? Under the title „How political is museum work?“, the 18th ICOM International Lake Constance Symposium will focus on two major topics: A look at the program and a look at the structures of museums.

On the first day of the conference, the focus will be on the outward-looking political dimension of museum work. How do museums participate in social debates? What role do they play in shaping socio-political opinion – and how does the opinion shape the institution?

Museums are microcosms in which political and ethical decisions are made on a daily basis. The second day is therefore dedicated to internal structures: How do political discourses influence the working methods of and in museums? How can museums improve their internal structures and thus influence the social image?

Examples of museum projects in the DACH region are intended to show how museums can live diversity as a matter of course within their teams and exhibitions and involve communities as active co-creators. The symposium is intended to promote self-reflection on the part of museums and highlight mechanisms for creating a culture of change and innovation.

Thursday, 23 May 2024

A political claim – a political mission


Registration and welcome with coffee & pretzels


Opening I Foyer I Live-Stream*

Dr Felicia Sternfeld, Chair ICOM Germany

Dr Johanna Schwanberg, Chair ICOM Austria

Tobia Bezzola, Chair ICOM Switzerland

Arne Braun, State Secretary at the Baden-Württemberg Ministry of Science, Research and the Arts

Fabian Mueller, First Mayor of the City of Friedrichshafen


Programming as a guideline. How political can it be? How political must it be? I Foyer I  Live-Stream* I in English

The opening panel focuses the programmatic dimension of museum work, or, more precisely, a political approach to designing a program. How do cultural institutions position themselves politically through their programs? And what exactly does that mean; politically? What is the motivation behind „political programs“ and what kind of effect do they have? How do interactions with an „outside“ influence these processes?

Inputs and discussion

Sonja Enz, Curator, Stapferhaus, Lenzburg

Prof Dr Kaja Širok, Executive Board of the International Council of Museums

Prof Dr Mirjam Zadoff, Director, NS Documentation Center Munich

Moderation: Prof  Dr Joachim Baur, Professor Technical University of Dortmund / freelance curator Die Exponauten, Berlin


Lunch break


Looking for utopias: How to become a „Brave-Place-Museum“? I Foyer I Live-Stream*

Changing societies require museums that change according to them. In the second panel, we therefore ask: How can museums take a bold stance in socio-political discourse? How can museums build bridges and create an atmosphere of understanding? How can museums deal with a narrowing of discourses, with continued and hardened polarities? How can we (re)learn to tolerate and accept differences, while not becoming rigidly polarized? What methods are suitable for mediating the “in-between”? How to deal with both accusations and demands to „cancel“? And: What can be expected from the political sphere?

Inputs and discussion

Dr Hanno Loewy, Director of the Jewish Museum Hohenems

Dr Gülşah Stapel, Research Associate/Curator Outreach Berlin Wall Foundation

Denise Tonella, Director of the Swiss National Museum, Zurich

Moderation: Dr Claudia Emmert, Director Zeppelin Museum Friedrichshafen


*ICOM Germany will stream the panel sessions live via Zoom. The live stream will be hosted by Dominik Busch, Digital Curator Staatliche Kunsthalle Baden-Baden.


Coffee break


Presentation of the workshop results


Reception of the City of Friedrichshafen, Zeppelin Museum Friedrichshafen

Invitation only

Friday, 24 May 2024

Work(ing) in the museum


Registration and welcome with coffee & pretzels


Structures. How do we work in our museums? I Foyer I Live-Stream*

The first panel of the second day will focus directly on working practices within museums. The focus here is on the internal mechanisms that drive operations: Agile working, project and process management, SCRUM, design thinking – how do museums work as cultural institutions today? How satisfied are the employees? What hierarchies exist, how fair are current organisational structures – and how diverse is the staff? What instances, tools and initiatives are in place to document, evaluate and continuously improve processes?

Presentation: Employee satisfaction in museums – ICOM Germany Study 2024
Matthias Burzinski, Managing director, destinetChange
Caroline Kaiser, Consultant, destinetCHANGE

Inputs and discussion

Jasmin Alley, Director of the East Frisian State Museum Emden

Peter Fritz, Director of the Salzburg Open-Air Museum, Austria

Caroline Kaiser, Consultant, destinetCHANGE

Moderation: Dr Felicia Sternfeld, Executive Director of the European Hansemuseum Lübeck


Coffee break


Living visions: Role models, strategies, courses of action for the museum of tomorrow I Foyer I in English I Live-Stream*

How do we WANT to work in museums? When human rights, social justice and mental health become central to museum work, we need new visions, strategies and actions in everyday practice. In panel 4, our guests will show us what an anti-racist, networked and inclusive museum can look like today and tomorrow. Think big!

Inputs and discussion

Léontine Meijer-van Mensch, Director of the State Ethnographic Collections of the Dresden State Art Collections

Armando Perla, Curator Textile Museum Toronto, Canada

Dr Margareta von Oswald, Research assistant at the Centre for Advanced Studies in Herit – heritage in transformation at Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin

Moderation: Dr Alina Gromova, Vice Director, Stiftung Neue Synagoge Berlin – Centrum Judaicum & Suy Lan Hopmann, Programme Curator, Stiftung Stadtmuseum Berlin

*ICOM Germany will stream the panel sessions live via Zoom. The live stream will be hosted by Dominik Busch, Digital Curator Staatliche Kunsthalle Baden-Baden.


Lunch break


Presentation of the workshop results I Foyer I Live-Stream*

Closing words 

Dr Felicia Sternfeld, Chair ICOM Germany

*ICOM Germany will stream the session live via Zoom. The live stream will be hosted by Dominik Busch, Digital Curator Staatliche Kunsthalle Baden-Baden.


End of the symposium

from 18:00

Reception of ICOM Switzerland

By invitation only.

Saturday, 25 May 2024

Travel to and from the event will be at your own expense.


Museum excursions

About the International Bodensee Symposium

The ICOM annual conferences, in particular the International Bodensee Symposium, have become key events in the European museum landscape. They not only provide a platform for professional exchange of best practice, they are also a forum to discuss current ideas in a complex world. The Symposium is held every three years and alternately organized by ICOM Austria, ICOM Germany and ICOM Switzerland.

The 18th International Bodensee Symposium 2024 is an event organized by ICOM Germany in cooperation with ICOM Austria and ICOM Switzerland.