DFM Dortmund – The German Football Museum in the City of Dortmund

DFM Dortmund – The German Football Museum in the City of Dortmund

The opening of the German football museum in October 2015 certainly enriches the cultural landscape of Dortmund. And only a short time here after the museum’s visitor numbers reached the 100.000 mark. Such a positive reaction was to be expected, since the flair of the new and unseen fascinates visitors of all ages especially round the subject of football.
Luckily the team led by Joachim Löw won the 4th world title and so recent history entered the museum and presents one of the largest visitor magnets.
It is the challenge in the medium- and long-term to get the visitors to return. But why should the visitors come to visit the museum for a second time? One reason could be another national team victory for the women or the men. But are there other reasons to return? And which reasons could that be.
The question is not easily answered, since the museum shows such abundance and variety of football history, that it is hard for the visitor to find path or structure to lead them through the exhibition. Instead, the visitor finds himself left alone amongst originals, reproduction, copies and replicas. And here we have the next difficulty: to know what is an original and what isn’t. The labelling of the objects is very questionable.
For example: the world cup trophy 2014 is called a facsimile – the only original stays with the FIFA – the visitor however rather expects to see the real trophy. But whether this here actually is the original world cup trophy that Philipp Lahm held up in the air on the night of the triumph is not clear.
Another example for the inconsistant handling of object description is the stadium model made of Lego bricks and figures. The object describes the tasks carried out inside the stadium before, during, and after a game. But the story of the model itself and how it has come to be here in the entrance hall of the exhibition is not being revealed. It would have been interesting to know where it came from, its history and why it now explains all the different work sections of the stadium. But that kind of information is nowhere to be found.
And why is this so important? Because: visitors expect to see originals when they visit a museum. Where else can one be sure to see just that – an original? But here the visitor of the German Football Museum is being left in the lurch.
Another aspect – the one of wellness – is a main argument for a visitor to return. But unfortunately there isn’t much space or opportunity for that in this museum. Or to rephrase the question: what kind of rooms or situations would there have to be to feel well? Fundamentally important for an empathic exhibition, a visitor-friendly museum or a place for visitors with a specific interest in a brand are, amongst others, the following:
Orientation
Light
Space for breaks
Participation
Welcoming and farewell gestures
Something to take home
Maybe one cannot address all points. But the museum that has been planned in a co-production with ‘Triad Berlin’ for many years is sadly not very attractive at all, considering it being a contemporary museum.
Admittedly there are glimmering media screens and echoing voices throughout the rooms – for a long time this was a sign of an innovative museum – but where is the participation? Yes, the visitor may kick a ball around at the end, but any other participation within the exhibition is non-existent.
The rooms seem like open collection or depot areas in which too many objects with their stories are on display, without hierarchy or evaluation, without order or guiding thread. Yes, many subjects are addressed, but then again many are not.
Here a more intensive participation of the visitor in the exhibition, in single topics is called for. And this will be a key point for any success of the football museum in the future. Because museums, where only the curator speaks and visitors are left to listen and read by themselves, are neither attractive nor comfortable. But please see it for yourself.