Whether the history of enigmatic and edgy Berlin has always intrigued you or not, Madame Tussauds Berlin’s latest exhibition is a must-see. Famous for its wax figures, the attraction’s Berlin 100! exhibition is more than a few expertly carved famous figures: it’s a beautifully curated trip back in time.
From 1920s dance club scenes to the 2006 football world cup, Berlin 100! takes visitors through 100 years of Berlin’s history in an interactive and mesmerising way. We sat down with Ulf Tiedemann, Head of Marketing for Merlin Entertainments in Berlin, for a sneak peek into the soon-to-be-opened exhibition.
1. So tell us about this new exhibition at Madame Tussauds Berlin.
This project is really close to my heart – it’s something we have been working on since summer 2019. We have involved many people from Berlin, but also potential guests to the city, to understand what is so unique about Germany’s capital. You can imagine many people have many different opinions, but we have identified some values and events that have truly shaped Berlin in the past 100 years.
Guests will be transported back to a Berlin dance club in 1920s where they’ll meet Marlene Dietrich and Liza Minnelli; they’ll meet JFK during his visit to Berlin; and they will travel into a divided city where they will be able to cross between the borders, meeting David Bowie, Udo Lindenberg, and many others. They’ll also see moments of celebration such as the waving of a rainbow flag on a Pride truck, and a crowd cheering along with Angela Merkel at the football world cup in 2006.
2. What were you most excited about when designing the exhibition?
While Madame Tussauds is not a museum but an interactive experience, we know that visitors to Berlin are interested in its history – good or bad. With Berlin 100!, we were able to take the history that sometimes feels theoretical and dry, and actually create a super exciting experience for our guests. Berlin hasn’t only been shaped by the historical events that you might know from books, but also by the people who lived and worked here. With this exhibition, we were able to join those different parts together and tell a fuller story of the city we love so much.
This is one of the things I love most about my role: working on projects that create memorable experiences. Our guests come on a day out with family or friends and want to escape the “real world” for a bit. We are the place where they are able to do that: they get to dive into the attraction, have an amazing time and take home great memories that last their lifetime. It’s amazing to know that your job makes other people happy!
3. What were some of the things you had to consider when deciding on what to include in the exhibition?
Madame Tussauds Berlin caters for a wide variety of audiences – from young adults to families, everyone enjoys their visit. When coming up with this exhibition we wanted to ensure we catered for these different audiences and the mix of pop culture, politics and history is definitely the answer to this.
Our attraction also has a varied audience with people visiting from all over the world. When you’re telling the story of Berlin, you realise that many important personalities are German. We had to ensure we had a good mix of German and international wax figures in order to tell a story that would make sense to all our guests – whether they’re German or international visitors. With the selected figures, I can truly say we have absolutely achieved this.
As many people know, Berlin’s history isn’t all shiny, glamorous and celebratory – we have been very careful to respectfully show the more mournful elements of Berlin’s history too.
4. What are some of the highlights of the exhibition?
Come and see! I don’t want to give too much of the new exhibition away, but I am proud that the whole team here has been able to deliver a product you cannot experience or see anywhere else. We have included so many stories and elements that come from TRUE Berliners and that has helped us shape this experience. Our aim was to help you experience Berlin like a local and create that feeling of freedom – goose bumps guaranteed!
5. What is your favourite part of the exhibition?
I LOVE the football part of the experience. “Football and Berlin, really?” – you might be thinking, but I can still clearly remember the 2006 World Cup happening in Germany.
Germans are some of the least patriotic people I know. Having lived in different countries, I know that waving the national flag at different events or on a special occasions is a normal thing to do. But in all the time I’ve lived in Germany, I had never seen anyone doing that here – until 2006.
That year changed the situation when the whole world was looking at Germany hosting the world cup. Suddenly, you saw cars with German flags, and scarfs and public viewing areas shimmering in black, red and gold colors. While it might not seem like a big thing for non-Germans, it was the first time in a while that Germans were able to stand up again and be proud of something after a terrible historical track record. It was a real moment of history and we’ve worked hard to recreate that moment for our guests.
6. The exhibition has five interactive zones – what makes them interactive?
As mentioned, we don’t classify ourselves as a typical museum. At Madame Tussauds, not only can you touch our wax figures – you read right, no ropes or barriers! – but you can also immerse yourself in a moment of time, into a world of celebrities and famous people.
Our set designers have outdone themselves and created real immersive sets for our guests. We have used technology to enhance static experiences and make them very interactive through the use of audio, video, games, photo opportunities and physical effects. Using your own smartphone, you can access additional content, facts and features to enrich your visit.
7. Why was it important to make the exhibition interactive?
We always strive to deliver a top-notch experience at Merlin Entertainments. The expectations of our guests and visitors are increasing day after day and we need to stay up to date with design, technology and features in order to attract guests and ensure they leave on a high after having had a fantastic visit to one of our attractions.
The leisure industry has been making big steps in the past decade, updating attractions to new standards. As the European leader in location-based entertainment, Merlin Entertainment is obviously leading the way. As this is Madame Tussauds Berlin’s biggest refurbishment since opening, interactivity has been a number one priority since the very first planning meeting.
8. Are there hidden gems or subtle details that you’ve added to the exhibition that you’d like people to look out for?
The amount of stories there are to tell from Berlin’s past 100 years is simply endless and we had to focus on some of the major moments that really made Berlin. However, there are many little Easter Eggs hidden within the attraction that have a deeper meaning and will tell you more stories than you might see straight away. Can you guess why Erich Honecker, former leader of the GDR, is keeping a very close eye on Udo Lindenberg as he’s playing his concert in East Berlin? Or did Walter Ulbricht really not want to build a wall…?
9. How long will the exhibition be running?
We are proud to announce that this exhibition will be a permanent feature of Madame Tussauds Berlin!