The Cologne City Museum as a new benchmark for inclusion in Germany

Taktil gedruckter gelber Stern. Zugängliches Exponat mit Braillebeschriftung im Kölnischen Stadtmuseum

On March 23, 2024, the Cologne City Museum opened in its new exhibition rooms (Haus Sauer) in the center of Cologne. In my opinion, it is the museum with the most inclusive exhibition in Germany, setting new standards. Its unquestionable self-image of an inclusive exhibition concept has raised the bar several notches.

„It is now state of the art for museums to offer one inclusive station per themed area or room. Strictly speaking, however, this approach is anything but inclusive, as it provides exclusive content via exclusive routes to exclusive stations. These usually don’t even pursue the same educational goal as the rest of the exhibition, let alone achieve it.“ Steffen Zimmermann

Preparation and consulting

Here, in the Cologne City Museum, we took a more fundamental approach. This is crucial for the high aesthetic inclusive quality. My consulting services on all inclusion issues were called upon very early on. As early as the conception stage and in close collaboration with the curators and scenographers, we looked at and discussed the entire list of exhibits from an inclusive perspective (i.e. „How can we make it better for all visitors?“), spontaneously explored possibilities of how and whether the respective object could be presented inclusively – and then made a preliminary selection based on these standards. As a result, many exhibits were removed from the display case, others were replaced, purchased, created as replicas or printed to make them freely and openly accessible. We decided which graphics were didactically feasible for everyone, which texts and objects and which photos and paintings. It was not so much a question of „What do we highlight?“ but rather „What do we unfortunately have to do without?“.

Execution included

After the final decision was made, it was also my task, together with the designers from, to develop the didactic design of the objects and to create a tactile layer and lettering (also in pyramid writing and Braille) for all selected objects and graphics and finally to produce them with my printing partner. I also developed a stringent and intuitively usable tactile floor guidance system that also fits in perfectly aesthetically. The audio and videos are of course coordinated with the guidance system and additional information. The checkout counter is equipped with an inductive hearing system. The MultiMediaGuide naturally also offers videos in German sign language. The signage is non-discriminatory. The entire exhibition is accessible without thresholds.

Services for blind visitors

There are many opportunities for blind people to experience the city’s history in the new museum. The floor guidelines lead from the sidewalk to the entrance door, the cash desk and the checkroom. Then through all the exhibition areas and, of course, to the sanitary facilities. There are tactile overview plans on all floors for orientation. The most important texts in each exhibition area are also in Braille, and some graphics can also be experienced tactilely. Many exhibits explicitly state: „Touching allowed!“. The MultiMediaGuide also offers a guided tour specially adapted for people with visual impairments. People who are blind or visually impaired and have an assistance dog are allowed to bring it into the museum.

„The collaboration with the scenographers and exhibition designers Berlin and the curators Stefan Lewejohann and Sascha Pries was characterized from the very beginning by equality and the common desire for a barrier-free place for everyone. This resulted in a wonderfully comprehensive project for me over two years. In addition to the inclusion advice and the floor guidance system, I produced around 166 (!) objects – all tactile – from information boards to plans, graphics and panels to exhibits. That’s an unusually large amount on 700 square meters with a total of 650 objects.“ Steffen Zimmermann

The Cologne City Museum writes:

A city museum for everyone

Inclusion and accessibility were key objectives when redesigning the permanent exhibition. In terms of both the spatial design and the content, the museum team focused on contemporary standards to ensure that everyone has an unforgettable visit to the museum. The exhibition areas are barrier-free throughout. Blind and visually impaired people are guided to important objects and content via a guide for the blind. For some selected exhibits, the explicit rule for visually impaired people is: „Touching allowed!“ In addition, numerous „hands-on“ stations have been designed for visitors with visual impairments. All main texts in the exhibition are also in Braille. There are also tactile graphics; the popular city model also makes the topography of medieval Cologne tangible with a haptic mediation element. The MultiMedia-Guide offers numerous other barrier-free functions. Source: Cologne City Museum press release from March 22, 2024

The new address:

Cologne City Museum Minoritenstrasse 13 50667 Cologne Postal address and administrative entrance: Kolumbahof 3 Opening hours: Tuesday Tuesday: 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Wednesday to Sunday: 10 am to 5 pm 1st Thursday of the month: 10 am to 10 pm (except on public holidays) On public holidays (such as Good Friday or Easter Monday): 10 am to 5 pm

A thought experiment for curators - What does inclusion cost?

Taktile Stadtentwicklungspläne im Kölnischen Stadtmuseum

Mind game: You are Linda P.

When Linda P. goes to the Cologne City Museum with her husband and children, they walk through the building as a group, talking and pointing out, discussing and adding to their knowledge of each area and aspect of the exhibition. They ask each other questions and share what they have learned.

Does it matter whether Linda is blind or not? It doesn’t matter in the Cologne City Museum because each themed area is equipped with a comparable depth of information and range of objects in different ways. But it does play a role in the other museums when Linda is guided to only a few, mostly monothematic „inclusion exhibits“, which, as Linda then realizes, actually ensure her exclusion. In fact, she didn’t notice anything about the actual exhibition or her family.

This photo shows a value-added exhibit for everybody. The historical city model (left in the picture), which is only visually accessible, is made much more interesting and informative by the didactic presentation on different levels that can be moved over one another (topography, urban development, important buildings, urban structure). These are, of course, tactilely legible alongside the models of the important buildings. This didactic presentation is the key to achieving the educational goal for all visitors.

And so, to conclude, the crucial question: what does inclusion in museums cost?

It costs the investment in a good didactic concept (which of course thinks inclusively) and often not only brings added value, but also the utility value for some exhibits that would otherwise remain inaccessible to the majority of visitors. Incidentally, Linda P. and her family would not have come without the inclusive design of the exhibition because they naturally wanted to experience the day together.

A multimedia guide provides further background information and the text version in sign language for those interested. The museum’s inclusion concept, the tactile implementations and the floor guidance system were created by Steffen Zimmermann, the exhibition design by

One of the most inclusive museums in Germany is being planned

Since the beginning of 2022, I have been consulting on the reconstruction and the conception and implementation of the new permanent exhibition with neumann schneider Ausstellungsarchitekten for the Cologne City Museum. In many parts, concerning the several hundred tactile and inclusive components, I am also involved in realization.

The exhibition content is made accessible through all media and senses. A multimedia guide with several specialized tracks leads through the museum. Exhibition content – from A-text to C-text is simply worded and available in Braille and audio and large print with excellent contrast on walls and tables. In addition, there is subtitling of videos, audio description of videos and objects, videos in DGS (German Sign Language) and the most important info also in pyramid writing. Of course, a floor guidance system leads through the exhibition. This is both a visual guide for the sighted and tactile for the blind visitors. On each floor there is a floor map that is visually and tactilely appealing. Very many of the exhibits are free to access and, of course, may be viewed with the hands. All floors are accessible by elevator.

The contract with the City of Cologne includes consulting on the selection of exhibits and the implementation of content according to inclusive aspects and curatorial objectives. Examination of the educational goals for feasibility. Concepts and drafts for alternative forms of presentation. Broadening and balancing the individual experience as part of an overall experience with all visitors. Consulting with the designers and architects involved and designing inclusive forms of presentation. This includes texts, graphics and alternative presentation of artwork. Implementing Braille and Profiled Lettering on exhibits and panels.

Rad also (German):

„Die Erarbeitung der neuen Dauerausstellung war ein spannender, intensiver Prozess” von Kurator Sascha Pries

„Wir wollen Geschichte erlebbar machen” – Ein Interview mit Silvia Rückert

Guest column by a blind art connoisseur

Anette Bach

Can art be comprehended?

A Rodin exhibition at the Folkwang Museum in Essen! For me an event! The years of my life when I was able to see were characterized by joy and interest in art. I loved drawing, but also paintings and sculpture. Even though I can no longer see, my interest in, I would even say my need for art has not changed. So I go to Essen. I remember Rodin’s works well. The famous „Thinker,“ „The Burghers of Calais,“ and first „The KUSS.“ What would the exhibition bring? Pure frustration! I was not allowed to touch anything.

I did not like to believe it at all. What could I destroy in stone sculptures if I only touched them with my hands? I was not allowed to touch anything even through a silk cloth that was laid on. I begged, scolded, argued. The acidic air of the Ruhr, the flies, spiders and dust would surely pose a greater threat to the integrity of the artwork. Nothing to do!

I think that’s not the way to do it! I too know, of course, that it would not be reasonable to open all museum and exhibition contents to every groping hand. But there is much more possible than is conceded. Certainly, I have often succeeded in organizing guided tours in which the showcases were opened after all or the boundary grids were pushed aside. But that was always a matter of luck and depended on the good will and high-handedness of the respective guide. I would like to see a change in thinking. All exhibitors should be obliged to make their exhibition accessible to visually impaired people. There are concepts for this and more can be developed. Exhibitors should have to have convincing arguments for what is not possible. There will always be such things, but it must not happen that we are forced into the role of supplicants, persuaders or rioters who demand something that is supposedly impossible.

If a fairy godmother ever came my way, I would wish that perhaps every state would create a facility that is chock full of models. There are so many magnificent, exciting and incredible things that people have created: The Inca’s buildings, the Taj Mahal, the Sydney Opera House or the Elbphilharmonie. Even if I could go everywhere and be allowed to walk around and touch everything, most of it would still not be accessible. I wouldn’t even recognize the David that Michelangelo created if I were allowed to climb around on the five-meter-high marble structure.

In the age of scanners and 3D printers, making models is probably just a matter of will.

My doorbell rings. Do fairies come through the front door?

About the author
Anette Bach heads the Hesse district group of the DVBS.

The 66-year-old organizes regular events on current topics and excursions with the leadership team, whose dates are published at and which are also open to interested guests.

The article was first published in Horus 2/2018 / Accessible Culture – Marburg Contributions to the Integration of the Blind and Visually Impaired. It was published here with the kind permission of the author.

Auf der Exponatec Cologne 2021 können Sie mich vom 17.—19. November treffen


Auf der Exponatec Cologne 2021 können Sie mich vom 17.—19. November 2021 auf dem Messestand A068-B069, Halle 2.2. persönlich kennenlernen. Sprechen Sie mit mir über alles, was barrierefreie und inklusive Konzeption angeht, über Produkte und Exponate, Unikate und Serien. Alle Fragen des Design für Alle und der Kommunikation für Alle sind willkommen. Sie finden mich am Stand werk5 | new craft, interactive scape und evelution.

Wenn Sie vorab mit mir einen Termin ausmachen, bin ich auch sicher voll und ganz für Sie da. Bei Bedarf kann ich Ihnen auch ein Ticket zukommen lassen.


Lichtenberg Museum: Comprehensive inclusion consultation for new permanent exhibition

Medienraum Lichtenberg Museum

What was Lichtenberg yesterday? What is it today? And how are the two connected? With its permanent exhibition, the Museum Lichtenberg invites you on a journey of discovery.

Thanks to Julia Novak, Dr. Tim Weber, Dr. Dirk Moldt and Dr. Thomas Thiele, a museum for everyone has developed. Julia Novak: „It wants to appeal to everyone. That’s why we avoid barriers, structurally, in terms of content and language. We designed the museum to be inclusive, interactive and participatory.“

My contribution as a consultant was to introduce those involved in the project to the many possibilities of inclusive conception and design even before the planning stage. The selection of exhibits, the display, tactile fonts, Braille texts and tactile graphics, the orientation plan and the floor guidance system also with the general visitor guidance were affected. With ideas, praise but also with criticism the agency buerojolas created a fantastic exhibition worth visiting.

Lichtenberg Museum

From the first conversation on it was thought inclusively. The curator Julia Novak and the project manager Dr. Tim Weber and Dr. Thomas Thiele approached me with joy and enthusiasm for a „Museum for All“. Already in the first round we created free space for new ideas with all participants. All those in charge and those carrying out the work were carried along and sorted out all their thoughts on content, design, orientation and conveyance based on the holistic view of inclusion and Design for All. With great results and on a large scale. While not everything is perfect here in Berlin’s „Museum Lichtenberg“, we have created a great museum where everyone, yes everyone, takes their part.

Lichtenberg Museum

Lichtenberg Museum

Lichtenberg Museum



Berlin Global Exhibition at the Humboldt Forum Berlin


The Berlin Global exhibition at the Humboldt Forum in the Berlin Schloss has successfully opened and contains wonderful objects for an entertaining visit.

It is with some pride that I point out having contributed three special exhibits to the exhibition. Of course, my works are designed in an inclusive spirit and include Braille. My team partner werk5 | new craft is responsible for the production of the exhibits.

Outdoor exhibition in the "Naturpark Südgelände" with a haptic experience

© Grün Berlin: Frank Sperling

If you want to inspire all users, let them grasp! What is essential for blind people is also a popular added value for sighted visitors of all ages. If tactile elements are part of the exhibition, all visitors feel attracted and their hands wander exploratively over the instructive content.

Only exhibitions with tactile and three-dimensional exhibits meet the requirements of „Design for All“, „Good Design“ (Dieter Rams) and the legal requirements of accessibility.

In Berlin’s „Naturpark Südgelände“ I was able to support the senate-owned Grün Berlin GmbH with my consulting assignment and thus launch, constructively accompany and successfully conclude a fantastic exhibition project for the users and for the client. Already during the tendering and conception phase, the course was set for a fully integrated implementation. Here, the question of how to now add accessibility was not asked after the fact, but rather a coherent and thus aesthetically flawless design concept could be developed.

The exhibition includes over a dozen panels on local flora, fauna and technology. Worth a visit for all! Have fun!

All photos: © Green Berlin/Frank Sperling

© Grün Berlin: Frank Sperling
Exhibit panels of the didactic open-air exhibition with tactile elements of the nature park.
© Grün Berlin: Frank Sperling
A small child enthusiastically discovers the tactile model of the long-eared owl, a symbol of nature conservation (artist Stephan Hüsch)
© Grün Berlin: Frank Sperling
Tables with tactile overview map and technical sights of the nature park
© Grün Berlin: Frank Sperling
The hands of a blind woman explore a tactile graphic on the sound production of grasshoppers



Ideen, um Museen zugänglicher zu machen

Museen haben das Interesse und die Pflicht, sich um Menschen mit unterschiedlichen Vermittlungswegen zu kümmern.  Weltweit leben etwa 1,3 Milliarden Menschen mit irgendeiner Form von Blindheit oder Sehbehinderung. Allein in Europa sind etwa 25,5 Millionen Menschen sehbehindert!

Oft ist ein Museumsbesuch mit dem Gefühl der Ausgrenzung verbunden, wenn Inhalt nicht gleichwertig oder vollständig oder in einer Weise adäquat vermittelt werden. Das geschieht insbesondere, wenn man mit der Familie oder Freunden ein gemeinsames Museumserlebnis haben möchte. Das traditionelle Museumserlebnis mit Objekten hinter Glas bietet einem blinden oder sehbehinderten Menschen nichts. Aber die meisten Museen entwickeln sich gerade hier weiter, um dem gerecht zu werden und den Besuch für alle zu einem Erlebnis zu machen.

Wie können Museen sehbehinderten Besuchern gerecht werden?

Es gibt viele Möglichkeiten, wie man einen Besuch für eine sehbehinderte Person interessant machen kann. Das fängt bei Audioguides und Audiobeschreibungen an. Es sollten aber auch Ansätze wie taktile Grafiken und 3D-Objekte sein, immersive Klang/Raumerlebnisse und interaktive Mitmachelemente. In Museen auf der ganzen Welt geht es heute um mehr als nur um das Sehen. Multisensorische Ausstellungen sprechen die Sinne Sehen, Hören, Fühlen und Riechen an. Dieser Ansatz erweckt Exponate für alle Besucher zum Leben.

Der Einsatz von Technologie macht Museen inklusiver.

Dank neuer Technologien sind auch sehbehinderte Menschen in Museen zunehmend willkommen. Viele Museen auf der ganzen Welt arbeiten mit 3D-Druck.

Es liegt auf der Hand, dass diese Technologie den Museumsbesuch für alle Beteiligten verbessern kann. Wer möchte nicht einmal ein Exponat hinter Glas berühren, auch wenn es nur eine Reproduktion ist.

Museen haben blinden und sehbehinderten Menschen viel zu bieten.

Wichtig ist das Verständnis, dass das Sehen nicht der einzige Sinn ist, mit dem Menschen kulturelle Angebote erleben und genießen können. Hinter den Türen jedes Museums verbirgt sich eine Fülle faszinierender Materialien, die nur darauf warten, auf neue Weise entdeckt zu werden.

Audio- und Textbeschreibungen (auch Braille und DGS) sind gute Vermittlungsinstrumente. Sie können Menschen helfen, mehr über die Inhalte zu erfahren. Aber auch andere Sinne wie Tastsinn und Geruchssinn können das Erlebnis bereichern. Ein persönlicher Ansatz funktioniert ebenfalls gut, mit beschreibenden Führungen, die anschauliche Bilder im Kopf erzeugen können. Es ist auch wichtig, die Besucher vor dem Besuch zu informieren, damit sie wissen, welche Möglichkeiten es gibt.

Museen müssen mit sehbehinderten Menschen kommunizieren. Sie müssen ihnen zuhören und mit ihnen zusammenarbeiten, um ihre Bedürfnisse zu verstehen. Ich zeige immer wieder gerne, wie kleine Veränderungen und zusätzliche Angebote einen großen Unterschied machen können. Mit diesen Veränderungen können Museen dafür sorgen, dass sich blinde und sehbehinderte Menschen wirklich willkommen fühlen.

Ölgemälde haptisch erfassbar – die nächste Stufe

Zusammen mit unserem #goinclusive-Partner Werk5 GmbH arbeiten wir weiter an der nächsten Generation inklusiver taktiler Medien. In der Werkstatt liegt derzeit für den Dauertest unter Sonnenlicht und massenhafter Berührung die farbige Variante des Felix-Nussbaum-Gemäldes „Selbstbildnis mit Judenpass“.

Das neue und einzigartige ist die vollfarbige Kopie des Gemäldes auf der taktilen Form. Daraus ergibt sich eine einzigartige Symbiose aus Realität und Gemälde. Blinde, sehbehinderte und sehende Besucher erleben und begreifen das selbe Objekt.

„Faszinierend! Es ist, als ob Felix Nussbaum selbst da wäre.”

Taktil und noch näher am Original
Nussbaum in Farbe – noch näher am Original

How does an oil painting become a crowd puller and also "visible" to blind museum visitors?

An important painting by Felix Nussbaum, the „Self-Portrait with the Jew’s Pass“, is to become a new crowd puller at the Felix Nussbaum Museum in the Osnabrück Museumsquartier through a 3D implementation.


For this purpose, we used our capabilities to model the painting digitally as a relief and then to have it created from a Corian block using a computer-controlled state-of-the-art 5-head milling machine. Using CAD, we determine the surface structure (for the adequate haptics) and depth of the components according to pedagogical aspects for the blind and, like a sculptor, we redesign the work in the artist’s sense – with a focus on tactile mediation.

Umsetzung eines Felix Nussbaum-Gemäldes in Relief und Braille

Consulting services for the redesign of the exhibitions in the Museum Lichtenberg

Ansicht Museum LichtenbergA reference library on Berlin and regional history and a local history archive are attached to the museum.
In addition, programmes on district history, the preservation of culture and tradition, as well as museum education projects and research activities with and for children and young people or groups of schoolchildren are offered.

The contract for expert consulting and supporting planning and implementation includes:

  1. Expert consulting regarding inclusion and the corresponding pedagogy during conception, curation and design.
  2. Expert evaluation and consultancy on drafts, concepts and plans for accessibility and inclusion. If necessary, recommendations for the improvement of accessibility or the achievement of inclusion.
  3. Assessment of concepts and drafts by representatives of the user groups and feedback workshop to check results. 
Expenses for management, support, organisation, accounting etc.
  4. Final approval of furniture, architecture, exhibits, guidance system, design etc. in terms of accessibility and inclusion. If necessary deficiency report.

We offer a unique tactile printing technology

Simulation einer Ölgemäldestruktur

Our unrivalled printing technology allows us to produce artwork in full colour range in any tactile structure. It is ideally suited for the presentation of works of art and for tactile graphics.

The final exhibit is hard and therefore has minimal abrasion by touch, and has a high to medium resistance to vandalism. The reproduction is very inexpensive.

We ensure low effort and low cost of production for replacement and exchange in case something has been damaged.

Simulation einer Ölgemäldestruktur
Simulation einer Ölgemäldestruktur
Simulation einer Holzstruktur
Simulation einer Holzstruktur



Humboldt-Forum beauftragt inklusive Exponate für die Dauerausstellung „Berlin und die Welt“

Gemeinsam mit dem Stadtmuseum entwickelt die Kulturprojekte Berlin GmbH eine Ausstellung über Berlin und die Welt im Humboldt Forum.

Auf einer Fläche von 4.000 qm verknüpft die Berlin-Ausstellung anhand verschiedener Themenaspekte die internationalen Verflechtungen der Stadt und befragt ihre Vergangenheit und Gegenwart. Im ersten Obergeschoss des wiederaufgebauten Stadtschlosses fügt sich die Berlin-Ausstellung räumlich wie inhaltlich als Bindeglied im Humboldt Forum ein. Sie soll zeigen, wie die Welt Berlin beeinflusst, aber auch, wie Berlin auf die Welt wirkt.

Einzelne Ausstellungsflächen werden Künstler*innen, Vereinen und Initiativen für themenspezifische Präsentationen zur Verfügung gestellt.
Zum Anschauen, Anfassen und Zuhören entwickelt, wird die Ausstellung auch integrative und partizipative Elemente einschließen, die Besucher*innen teilhaben lassen.

Für die Entwicklung dieser Stationen, die als inklusive Ereignisse für alle geplant sind, wurde ich beauftragt. Die Vermittlung mit allen Sinnen für ein großes Publikum soll in dieser Ausstellung eine besondere Rolle spielen.