Curating in East Germany – Stasi Records

I recently watched the film The Lives of Others for one of my classes. I also started reading the book The File for the same class. Both the book and film are about East Germany in the 1970s and 1980s, when the Stasi were prominent. The Stasi was the Ministry of State Security in East Germany. Their goal was to ferret out people who were anti socialist, and who could possibly rebel against the government/ write subversive papers/ cause trouble in general. To do this, the Stasi kept a file on anyone who they considered suspicious. They had people followed, and wiretapped their homes, and kept extensive written records on people. That’s what the film is mostly about. It shows how apartments were bugged, and how Stasi members would sometimes be assigned to sit and listen to conversations, and record them all day. The Stasi files were opened to the public after East Germany and West Germany were reunited. People can go in and look at their files, and see when the Stasi were spying on them, and what they wrote. That is what the book The File is about. A man looks into his Stasi records.

It struck me that this was a kind of curated collection. The Stasi chose people who they thought would be trouble makers, and documented days, sometimes years, of their lives.  Everything was organized neatly. The Stasi even kept the scents of people in jars, in case they had to send bloodhounds after them. The scents, and the files are a curated collection of people who could have been trouble makers in the Stasi’s eyes during the 1970s and 80s. There is now a library and archive open to the public, where people can go and look up their files. It’s interesting how a curated collection that was never meant to be seen by the public is now open to anyone who wants to do research or look themselves up.


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