Dr. Hans-Jörg Czech: A new history museum for the Wilhelmstraße “cultural mile”


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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.

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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.


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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.

 

AutorThe 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.