The state capital of Hessen has plans to enrich its Wilhelmstraße, already noticed as a “cultural mile”, with yet another attraction. According to the city council, a new municipal museum is to be built on the corner property at Wilhelmstraße and Rheinstraße, neighbouring the State Museum and in close proximity to the Rhein-Main-Halle. The aim pursued is to invite the inhabitants of the city and region as well as national and foreign visitors to discover Wiesbaden’s past and present in a contemporary setting.
Thanks to important settings of course, the many years of preparation towards realizing this nationally noted project of setting up a brand-new municipal museum have entered a vital phase. The architectural design was determined through an international contest, which awarded the prize to the draft by the Berlin-based design office töpfer.bertuleit.architekten. On approximately 8,000 square metres of effective surface area with a suitably contemporary architectural look, the new building will unite all functions of a modern museum, oriented towards the public’s needs. After crossing the light-suffused foyer, which has been designed generously enough to lend itself to hold events, the visitor will be able to experience the unfolding of vast exhibition areas, including 2,400 square metres for historical representations. In addition to educational exhibition rooms, an auditorium and a bistro with an attractive patio will be available. For staff use, the museum design provides space for offices as well as a special library, restoration workshops, and storage areas for collections. In its proportions and arrangement of expansively glazed openings, the planned museum building closely relates to its urban setting. The exterior surfaces, consisting of simple geometric shapes, give the building a solitary appearance, which is clearly committed to the modern architectural code of the 21st century. The municipal museum will put a prominent structure at the entrance of Wiesbaden’s boulevard, which will characterize the state capital of Hessen as not only a place aware of its fascinating past but also a modern city embracing its present and its future. The Hessen government supports the new project with a financial contribution.
The state is to provide further assistance by committing its prestigious collection of Nassau antiquities to the project office of municipal museum project. With 340,000 mostly unique objects from between the region’s prehistory and early 20th century, this inventory, which was established as early as the 19th century, represents an excellent foundation for future exhibitions. In addition, the municipal museum project office, established in 2000, has been putting together an 8,000-object collection relating to the region’s history of the 19th to 21st centuries.
The thematic structure and configuration of the future permanent exhibition are also taking shape parallel to the advancement of the construction schedule. The continually evolving concept emanates from the cooperation between the scientists of the project team and the members of an eminent scientific advisory committee. The aim is a presentation that, in line with modern museological standards and divided into three big sections, provides a chronological walk through Wiesbaden’s history. Beside views into the ancient, medieval and early modern past of the city, the bulk of the space is devoted to the 19th and 20th centuries. Those are the times during which Wiesbaden underwent a gradual ascent to metropolis – from seat of the Nassau duchy to Wilhelmine “cosmopolitan spa city” to state capital of Hessen after 1945 – and repeatedly gained national, if not international significance. The city’s history during the Weimar Republic and the Nazi regime is also to be intensively illuminated. With Hans Dieter Schaal, the creative implementation of the permanent exhibition has been put in the hands of one of Germany’s most notable exhibition designers. The aim of all of the planning endeavours is to turn future exhibition visits by people of all ages and backgrounds into an instructive and eventful experience by generating vividly rendered exhibits as well as appealingly presented information content. The museum is to become a modern and didactically as well as academically discerning institution, which not only conveys the shapes and findings of the research on the city’s history to a large public but also is itself actively involved in enriching them.
A large temporary exhibition area will allow further expansion of prominent themes such as the local social and economic history.
Already now, the project office for the municipal museum frequently contributes to deepen the knowledge of the city’s history by means of presentations, children’s events, city walks, and other special events. Through exhibitions with themes such as Alexej Jawlensky in Wiesbaden, Kurhaus centenary or Wiesbaden at the centre of the Berlin Airlift, relevant aspects of the city’s history are continually being developed. The positive public response to this work is an incentive to tackle the remaining challenges in realizing the municipal museum. The significant potential that this museum project (slated for full operation in 2014) represents for, amongst others, the cultural infrastructure of the city and region is becoming increasingly obvious.
The author was born in 1966 and studied art history, modern German literature, and ethnology in Münster, Vienna and Bonn. Dr. Czech did voluntary work for the Kassel State Museums and participated in redesigning the Schloss Wilhelmshöhe Museum, he also worked as assistant manager and curator at the German Historical Museum in Berlin. He is the founding director of the Wiesbaden Municipal Museum.