By extending the original duties of a museum, the ZKM | Center for Art and Media has become a cultural institution unique throughout the world. It is a house for all media and genre, a house for both spatially-based arts, such as painting, photography and sculpture as well as time-based arts, such as film, video, media art, music, dance, theater, and performance. ZKM was founded as a museum in 1989 with the mission to perpetuate classic arts in the digital age, which is why it is occasionally referred to as "Electronic or Digital Art Bauhaus," an expression that can be traced back to Heinrich Klotz. Beyond that, ZKM houses institutes and laboratories where scientific research, development, and production is carried out. Alongside the classic guiding principle of a museum, namely, to protect the disappearance of artworks, ZKM has also taken on the task of creating conditions under which works of art arise; for one, by way of guest artists, and for another, by way of the staff members. For this reason, it is called a center and not a museum.
With the Museum of Contemporary Art, the Media Museum, the Media Library, the Institute for Visual Media, the Institute for Music and Acoustics, and the Laboratory for Antiquated Video Systems, the ZKM has a wide range of possibilities at its disposal for developing interdisciplinary projects and international collaboration. In its work, the ZKM brings together production and research, exhibitions and events, mediation and documentation. ZKM is thereby able to respond adequately to the rapid development of information technology and transformation of social structures. As "Mecca of Media Arts" (Peter Weibel), ZKM deals theoretically and practically with innovations in communication and information technologies, the subsequently unleashed options for art, and the social transformations that are set in motion.
By combining archive and collections, exhibitions and events, research and production, ZKM is able to adequately illustrate art's development in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries; no least due to the symposia and other platforms for theoretical discourse between philosophy, science, art, politics, and the economy that accompany its collection, exhibition, and research activities.