Maybe it's because of the cute lobster that smiles and holds a quill in its scissors. In any case, most visitors voted for the leather postcard (1900/1910) from the United States, as evidenced by the many round stickers under the picture of the writing lobster.

At the German Leather Museum in Offenbach, visitors to the exhibition "Your Museum. Collection Revisited" is currently choosing from 33 items which exhibit is their favorite. To do this, they cast their vote in the form of a sticker that they stick under the photo of the object. Every few weeks, 33 new exhibits are put up for selection, for a total of 99. In the end, the objects with the most votes will make it into the exhibition, which will open in May 2024 on International Museum Day.

Stickers show the popularity

"What is your favourite object from the collection?" the museum asks its visitors, following an idea that other museums, such as the Museum of Modern Art in Frankfurt or the Museum of Arts and Crafts in Hamburg, have tried out in one way or another – whether museum staff were curating an exhibition or students were invited to it. It's about participation, about new perspectives on the collection, and about opening up more as a museum.

To this end, visitors to Offenbach now slip into the role of a curator. At least a little, because of course the museum staff made a pre-selection. It would simply be impossible to choose from the more than 30,000 objects in the collection, says museum director Inez Florschütz. Many visitors may also not be aware that some exhibits have to be prepared before an exhibition. And that they were stored packed. The project is also intended to provide information about this, says Florschütz: "How does a museum work? How is an exhibition made?"

Vote via Instagram

The exhibits presented are a cross-section of the collection, according to the director. The shortlist includes, for example, an Asian shadow play figure, a minstrel box from the Middle Ages, beaded moccasins, Art Deco handicrafts, roller skates from the fifties and curiosities such as a powder horn made of star rays.

The museum's followers on Instagram can also vote on what will be on display. You will always be given two objects to choose from. For example, a make-up mirror (1920/30) competed against a side table (1994) made of stingray leather. Or a walking stick against a red crocodile umbrella. Just like Ottoman slip-on shoes (19th century) versus moccasins (around 1800) – both are children's shoes. The museum staff are sometimes surprised by the preferences of their visitors: they expected the moccasins to win, says one employee. But the visitors decided otherwise.

Get to know the audience better

In this way, the campaign helps to get to know the audience better, says Florschütz. "We want to start a conversation." In order to present the collection in a new way and to facilitate emotional access for visitors, the exhibition dispenses with scientific information about the exhibits. "We are relinquishing our authority." Instead, visitors are invited to formulate their own ideas about the respective object. These comments will also be seen later.

What some people from the worlds of politics, art and design who were interviewed in advance came up with about a Mexican leather saddle from the 19th century, a Japanese firefighter's helmet from the Edo period and a wallet made from an Aga toad can already be read in personal notes. That makes you want more. However, most of the showcases are still empty. What they will be equipped with will become clear in the next few weeks.

■ Your museum. Collection revisited until 11 August 2024, Deutsches Ledermuseum Offenbach, Frankfurter Straße 86, Wednesday to Friday 10 a.m. to 17 p.m., Saturday, Sunday and public holidays 11 a.m. to 18 p.m.