Places & Spaces Whilst Away

buchstabenmuseum berlin

June 11, 2012

Today i’m really excited. I’ve been in love with the buchstabenmuseum from the moment i stepped into it for the first time in 2010. Still at a different location, i had the fortune of meeting the delightful barbara dechant and anja schulze who founded the nonprofit organization back in 2005, but only opened it to the public in 2008.

The buchstabenmuseum (the museum of letters) was born out of a passion for typography and for rescuing threatened letters from public spaces. It’s dedicated to preserving, restoring and exhibiting signage from berlin and around the world.

When back in berlin a few weeks ago and as a self-confessed typography and letterform lover, the museum was once more high on the agenda. Now in a different location and with a two hours opening slot, I rushed over on my bicycle and arrived just as they were closing. Barbara, who saw me huffing and puffing, welcomed me with a big smile and a large glass of water. Not only did i arrive at closing time but i also wanted to take some pictures and ask for an interview. Well, 90 minutes later we said goodbye and i had my big fix of letterforms and another wonderful encounter with the sublime barbara.

Where does your love for letterforms originate from? I was fascinated by their shapes and angles even before i could read or write. Now, that i understand their content and meaning it’s become a deeper obsession. Letterforms in all different varieties hold major interest for me, be it chinese, japanese or any language for that matter. I love the curves, the corners, the soft edges and particularly the different varieties within one letter.

Your passion really comes through when visiting the museum. How do you finance it? Haha. We don’t. It was a labour of love right from the beginning. We had the vision but not the money, so we decided to just start the project and see where it takes us. Both anja and i work full time in our respective jobs. We dedicate a lot of our spare time, passion and a little madness to the museum and have some very dedicated and wonderful volunteers that help us run this.

You’ve moved since i last visited to these wonderful premises. Is this permanent? No, unfortunately not. We’re temporarily renting this great space but are looking for something permanent as soon as we can afford it. The number of visitors is rising quickly, and the museum has been the focus of substantial media interest from within germany and beyond. Support from donors and sponsors is still very much needed and sought after. We are very thankful to all our supporters. Getting sponsorship would enable us, amongst other things, to widen our collection of letterforms and offer better and longer opening times to our visitors.

Your collection is amazing but there must be so many more letter signage out there? Yes, we are very proud of our collection and always greatful when people call to offer us something new. It’s often a question of costs of transportation but people have been very generous so far. We are particularly interested in the idiosyncratic signs created by skilled craftspeople, reflecting a company’s unique character. These eye catching signs are dying out as more and more small businesses are disappearing. We would like to preserve and document them.

How else do you raise funds? Except for the permanent exhibition, we offer guided tours, talks and lectures on letterforms and related film screenings (ie gary hustwit’s helvetica film). We also rent out rooms for filming, photoshoots and offer our space for dinner where we decorate our letterforms with candlelights. At one stage we hired out some of our individual letters but found this to be a rather inpractical solution as the letterforms get damaged easily.

If someone wrote you a blank cheque what are your dreams for the buchstaben museum? First off, we would have a central massive permanent space for our museum. Next i would employ our wonderful helpers and secure a salary for me and anja. Then i would buy a second-hand unimog for easy transport of the signage and because i do love them. Not to forget, we would throw a massive party as a thank you to all our supporters and you’re definitely invited!

Well, let’s hope all your dreams come true but for now, thank you for your time, for your passion and generosity.  I will see you next time in berlin. Bis bald!

Hertie signage, Buchstabenmuseum

I don’t know about you, but i just love this museum. When next in berlin, i urge you to visit but be aware of their very limited opening times. Being german, i feel very nostalgic when looking at the hertie sign, the miele and the sparkasse logo. Anyone recognise the green h? Of course you do!

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  • Reply caroline @trend-daily June 11, 2012 at 9:23 am

    FABULOUS lovley-I can’t believe you managed photos and an interview, you clever sausage you. Must get to Berlin earlier next time-looks fascinating. Have a wet and wild week…!!??!x

  • Reply Igor June 11, 2012 at 9:48 am

    What an incredibly cool place!! How come I never heard of it! This has to go onto my to-visit list for my next Berlin trip!!! Thanks for sharing, Tina!

    • Reply tina June 16, 2012 at 11:26 pm

      I think you will absolutely love it. My pictures don’t do it justice….

  • Reply Gerard McGuickin June 11, 2012 at 10:47 am

    Great museum concept. I love the look of this place and will definitely seek it out when next in Berlin. And what’s that green H then… I can’t place it but I do recognise it.

    Hv a good week & thanks for sharing Tina.


    • Reply tina June 16, 2012 at 11:27 pm

      Isn’t it fab? The B is for me and the G for you love. Excited to meet next week xx

  • Reply Lauren June 11, 2012 at 12:47 pm

    Great interview, Tina! What a great museum! I just love the idea of having dinner in there among all the candlelit letters. How lovely would that be? Keep us posted will you, if they get a permanent spot?

    • Reply tina June 16, 2012 at 11:28 pm

      I think Barbara will throw a huge party when they get a permanent place…. hopefully it won’t be too long and I can experience the dinner with candle light:)

  • Reply Theresa June 12, 2012 at 4:25 am

    I know that “H.” Of course we do! [wink] Tina, what a great interview. Look at you hopping on your bike and getting this interview! I love your passion, and the passion of Barbara and Anja. Hopefully soon they will get that permanent space.
    Something else I love, all these vintage signs! What an amazing collection! I would love to have any one of these signs in my home. How cool would that be? Pretty cool.

    • Reply tina June 16, 2012 at 11:30 pm

      I am smiling because I can no see you when I comment. Relly love your new pic:)

      They look amazing in real life. Seriously, I could have just moved in amongst all thise letterforms:)

  • Reply Catherine Bedson June 12, 2012 at 7:40 am

    Well done on the deadly treadly. I have a thing for old signs and typography…fills you with nostalgia, this place is seriously cool. Catherine

    • Reply tina June 16, 2012 at 11:31 pm

      Well done for getting your mojo back woman…. So pleased you joined BYW…
      Hopefully you can visit the museum one day!!

  • Reply leah of sang the bird June 12, 2012 at 8:12 am

    I LOVE typography and this is awesome. Such a great collection. Love to visit Berlin one day! xxx

    • Reply tina June 16, 2012 at 11:32 pm

      Maybe we’ll have a meet up in Berlin. How about that?? xx

  • Reply Holly June 12, 2012 at 9:15 am

    Great interview!! And I didn;t know about the Buchstaben Museum until you mentioned it. Looks awesome. Must definitely visit next time I’ in Berlin. The dinner idea sounds really cool.

    The H is Hoilday Inn, oder?


    • Reply Gerard McGuickin June 12, 2012 at 11:59 am

      That’s what I thought 🙂 H for Holiday Inn. Great minds!

    • Reply tina June 16, 2012 at 11:33 pm

      You spilled the beans… Well done. Yes, it’s an older version of the logo. They’ve updated it since but only slightly…. AND it’s H for Holly… You must get one x

  • Reply Sam Lennie June 12, 2012 at 9:43 am

    The colours are amazing too, aren’t they? Hey teacher, I know what the ‘H’ is!! I’m glad you were able to get in for a private viewing and meet Barbara. What a great find. Thanks for sharing love x

    • Reply tina June 16, 2012 at 11:35 pm

      Ha. I love that you all knew…. Yes, the colours are amazing and they coordinate them in a really interesting way. I hope you get to see it one day. It is breathtaking x

  • Reply annie June 12, 2012 at 1:36 pm

    Holiday Inn! didn’t realise it was so recognisable.

    What a fab museum, it looks so much fun. But goodness what a mouthful that name is.

    Richard would love it, he’s a typogfreak.

    She’s really pretty too. Great photos Tina as always.

    • Reply tina June 16, 2012 at 11:36 pm

      Richard would love to go there then…. Anyway Berlin is hot so get down there…

  • Reply Christine Martin June 12, 2012 at 3:05 pm

    great interview, Tina. what a unique museum concept. typography is something i am finding more of a love for with blog design etc…what an art!

    • Reply tina June 16, 2012 at 11:38 pm

      I have aleays loved typography, handwriting etc. I don’t really know where that comes from.. Hmmm. Must investigate:) Glad you enjoyed it.

  • Reply Chi@106 June 14, 2012 at 7:10 pm

    Oh, I’m so glad you made it and got a great interview to boot. What a super concept!

    The sight of such diverse and abundant typography (and colour-coded, too!) in one space is making my heart go pitter-patter!

    I LOVE the way you photographed the “A” in the foreground with the “B” peeking through the doorway – genius! 😀 x

    • Reply tina June 16, 2012 at 11:40 pm

      Ha. Now you know why I needed to leave you guys. My heart was calling me and I can’t bear not to visit the museum when in Berlin!

      I know you would totally have loved it but there was no way we would have got there in time. At least you’ve got my post, right??? x

  • Reply Kelly Sparkes June 16, 2012 at 7:18 pm

    Wow, looks like a fantastic place. I’ve not been to Berlin, but when I do I will definitely be visiting this museum, I love typography.

    Well done for getting an interview at closing time too!

    Thanks for sharing, I’m with Chi, the photograph of the ‘A’ and ‘B’ is gorgeous, I would have that on my wall x

    • Reply tina June 16, 2012 at 11:41 pm

      Oh, miss jetsetter, you will LOVE Berlin.
      Thanks love x or shall I say Auntie:)

  • Reply sue June 18, 2012 at 11:57 pm

    love typography, love the look of this museum, love this post! thanks for sharing tina… fab!

    • Reply tina June 19, 2012 at 12:59 pm

      Pleasure dear. Hope you will get to see it one day:)

  • Reply Richard Bland May 19, 2015 at 2:41 pm


    Found your website via a pin on a pinterest board. I would really like to use some of your images as backgrounds for my own website, would this be possible?

    Thanks kindly

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