The collections at Weltmuseum Wien comprise a total of about 200,000 objects. As only 1.5 per cent of the total inventory is on display in the galleries of the permanent exhibition, most of the objects are located in the various depots of the Museum. Weltmuseum Wien opened this exhibition depot to lift the lid on about 800 additional objects and to enable visitors to experience the great diversity of its collections.
The setup of the open storage is rather pragmatic. On the one hand, it is still a depot with a clear focus on the pragmatic “storage” of objects without any specific explanations or the presentation of individual objects in the foreground. On the other hand, it is also quite pragmatic in terms of the displayed objects’ qualities or properties: old next to young, sacred next to profane, rare next to mass-produced goods, and unique next to serial objects.
The name Galleries of Marvel reinforces the exhibition character of the presentation. Intended as an invitation for visitors to take a closer look, they should not simply walk by but rather stay for a while and marvel at the many different objects. The open storage strives to captivate its visitors and excite them not only for the great extent of the collections but also for the diversity of human cultural expression.
Images of the human being
The human body is a central motif in the creation of art. Human figures do not always represent specific individuals but occasionally also abstract ideas or beings from other worlds. At the same time, abstract representation may also refer to actual people in real life. And not everything is recognised as a human being right away either. Faces as reflected in masks play a vital role in communication. A face inevitably stirs up emotions and often requires just a few hints to become a clear message. All it takes are a few lines and dots for a ☺ to have an effect on us.
Museums turn things into objects. This also means that they are integrated according to various categories, some of which bear no relationship to the original function and significance of the
objects in their societies of origin. Nevertheless, these categories may also reveal quite surprising connections between objects. The instruments on display, for example, are divided into four categories of sound production: membranophones (causing a membrane to vibrate), aerophones (causing a body of air to vibrate), idiophones (causing the instrument as a whole to vibrate), and chordophones (causing strings to vibrate). It might come as a surprise that something made from an infinite number of combined rhythms and melodies could be based on just four basic principles of physics.
Ethnographic museums claimed to present the material culture of a society as a whole. Certain objects could only be collected to a limited extent due to their sheer size. In the early nineteenth century, museums instead began to have models of such objects made to close this collection gap. Buildings and boats serve as symbols of sedentism and mobility, of ties to a certain place and freedom. At the same time, however, they also refer to the relationship between a society and its environment.