Discover a string of pearls of stories
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The heart of the new Museum will be the newly conceptualized collection. In 14 rooms, which will be arranged like a necklace of stories one after the other, the main collection will be shown and interpreted from a modern standpoint. We want to give you the opportunity to discover these rooms one by one and even now give you a taste of our ambitious plan. In each room which will be presented there will be objects which can be activated so that you can get to know them better - and also the curator who stands behind the room.
A Mountain Village (Working title)
This gallery tells the story of life in a village in the Himalayas. The emphasis here is on the relationships between the village inhabitants and between religious beliefs and secular activities. These relationships constitute the fundamental theme of the realised model of a fictive village - a world with many settings:
The hearth is the focal point of family and social life.
The house altar connects the family with the gods.
In the fields the family generates its livelihood.
On the mountain pastures, mostly younger family members pasture their livestock.
In temples, monks strive for enlightenment and propitiate the gods.
Far removed from the village, yogis seek spiritual insight.
Holy mountains watch over this world.
Only the interplay of human activities in all these settings and the various religious beliefs impart meaning to the world of the mountain inhabitants, and make a life in the Himalayas possible. For many young people, this world no longer appears attractive. Above all, those who have enjoyed school education seek their fortune in the cities with all their opportunities yet also their problems.
Shadows of Colonialism (Working title)
Between 1500 and 1920 the majority of the world was under the control of foreign powers, a situation characterised by dominance, exploitation and cultural conflicts. Against this background, ethnographic museums blossomed in the 19th and 20th centuries while shaping stereotypical perceptions of colonialised cultures. Our museum also profited from colonial expansion, and some histories of acquisition can be linked to brutal appropriation and colonial authority. As colonies gradually succeeded in fighting for their independence or were released into it after World War II., these developments were not mirrored in ethnographic museums simultaneously. Beloved and seemingly timeless beliefs regarding the “Self” and the “Other” were tentatively questioned after the 1980s. Today, we attempt to face the multitudes of our colonial past. The manner in which we deal with our collections and the people connected to them will reveal who we are today to future generations.
1873 – Japan reaches Europe (Working title)
The World's Fair of 1873 in Vienna represented a particularly significant moment in the history of Japan. For the first time, the country displayed itself to a great extent to a global public. Japan found itself in a period of upheaval and, after an opening-up which was compelled by external forces and an internal restructuring of the country via the abolition of the old feudal system in the course of the Meiji-restoration, it was very interested in exposing itself to the industrial achievements of the European nations, and in joining their ranks as a modern state.
A commission, formed in Japan and to which also foreigners such as the brothers Alexander and Heinrich von Siebold belonged, assembled over 6,000 objects, according to the officially published catalogue.
A focus of the Vienna World's Fair was dedicated to the theme of architecture, and Japan sent a series of architectural models, the majority of which are found in the collections of the Weltmuseum Wien. The central object of this gallery is a unique model of a Daimyô residence from the Edo period (1600-1868); it was one of the largest exhibits displayed at the time in the Japanese Pavilion. Articles from the collection of the Museum, which could have been found in such a residence, serve to illustrate the dwelling of a feudal prince and member of the Japanese warrior élite. The second half of the gallery is dedicated to the cultural exchange between Japan and Europe during the Meiji period (1868-1912).
Museomania! Three Habsburgs and the exotic Otherness (Working title)
An early modern seed of contemporary tourism was the so-called “Grand Tour”, the goal of which was the completion of the education of a young aristocrat. The tour should “socialise” him for the “correct” conduct of daily life befitting his status. In addition to urbanity appropriate to his station, he should above all acquire “cultural sensitivity and intellectual advancement”. The fact that noble houses gradually opened up their collections to “certain people”, namely the highly-educated and rich, is to be understood against this background not as an unselfish act, but instead as a means of emphasising monarchic qualities.
In this way, in the second half of the 19th century members of the House of Habsburg also presented themselves as “educators of their subjects” via the opening up of their collections, and thereby legitimated their dominant position in the state. In addition, sending a leading family member abroad also served the House of Habsburg by demonstrating the particular interest of the Danubian monarchy in other regions of the world. In the self-representation of the nobility, directed towards the external world, through valuable or “exotic” objects as a symbol of the highest cultivation and civilized manners, can be found an origin of our museum institutions which has until now been neglected.
South Seas Expeditions (Working title)
Long before European expedition ships ventured into Pacific waters, sailors from East and South-East Asia explored the South Seas and settled in the islands of Melanesia, Micronesia and Polynesia with their families.
The objectives of European voyages of discovery in the modern period were not only the “discovery” and opening up of unknown areas of the earth, but also the surveying and colonial conquest of the world. Four European research expeditions to the South Seas, closely connected with the history of the Austrian museum, give an account of the eventful encounters with the inhabitants of the Pacific islands. These encounters were characterised by appreciation and respect, but also by covetousness between peoples and bloody conflicts. Numerous implements of daily life and ritual objects, diary entries, illustrations of journeys, sketches and photographs provide a record of first contacts, active bartering and mutual hospitality, but also of violence, resistance and centuries-long heteronomy. Many objects in the museum even today are therefore of great historical and spiritual significance for the peoples of the South Seas.
Vienna School of Ethnology (Working title)
With his book, “Die Stellung der Pygmäenvölker in der Entwicklungsgeschichte des Menschen [The place of the Pygmy people in the developmental history of mankind]", Father Wilhelm Schmidt in 1910 predetermined the guiding theme for the still youthful science of ethnology in Vienna. In the hunter-gatherer society of the time, he believed he had recognised descendants of the so-called “primordial culture”, and therefore sent his students Father Paul Schebesta and Father Martin Gusinde on field research, in order to find proof for his in part controversial theories. As members of a missionary order, however, they often were suspected of being more interested in defending Catholic social teaching than in objective scientific research. If nothing else, Schmidt's socio-political battle against “Red Vienna” and Sigmund Freud's psychoanalysis with its call to “ethnological actualities” resulted in a mixture of politics, belief and scientific knowledge, within which hunter-gatherer societies were accorded particular importance. Even if the underlying theories of the time are today viewed as outdated, nevertheless the collections which resulted from them are unique in their extent and age.
Orientalia (Working title)
Vienna: the Orient on the doorstep. Prince Metternich famously quipped that “Asia begins at the Rennweg… My house marks the frontier of civilization.” Yet the history of the encounters between Occident and Orient has since time immemorial been characterised by mutual stereotyping of the other as well as by an idealising self-image. For the Orient as well as for the Occident, it is a general rule that on closer observation, longings are discernible in the image of the other which each had learned to repress in its own respective culture. In addition to picturing the commercial, military, scientific and touristic opening up of the Orient by the Austro-Hungarian Empire, this gallery visualises for the visitor the complex mixture of reciprocal appreciation. The Oriental collection of the Weltmuseum Wien which originated in the 19th century reflects on the one hand the economic and cultural orientation of Vienna towards the Orient. On the other hand, in the biographies of individual collectors, those signs of affinity and common ground between Orient and Occident are expressed which, overshadowed by large-scale conflicts, all too often remain unnoticed.
Into a New World - North America
The nomadic and equestrian cultures of the North American Plains have become both an archetype and stereotype for American Indians: i.e. a warlike people riding horses and hunting buffalo. In fact, this way of life only developed after the introduction of the European horse. Dominant as these images still are in the public’s imagination, the Plains cultures were not the only native tradition in North America.
Completely different customs existed in other areas of the continent. From the primeval forests in the East through the Great Plains at the centre of the continent, and crossing the Rocky Mountains to the temperate rainforests of the West right up to the Arctic desert of the North: the populations of these four regions demonstrate how diverse and dynamic native cultures of North America have always been. Despite oppression and destruction, these cultures are still vibrant.
The exhibits reveal that traditional materials and shapes are still both used and produced. Yet, adaptations and innovations continue to be introduced. Today, additional native identities find expression in new media as well as such items as baseball caps with labels like “Native Pride” and national flags with symbols of tribal identities.
The traditional and non-traditional come together to create something that is able to walk in both an indigenous and non-indigenous world. The Viennese collection demonstrates in an exemplary way both old and changing traditions. In sum, the gallery conveys the following statement of First Americans: We Are Still Here! Read more