With the ceremonial opening of the new Museum im Palais at the Palais Herberstein on 11th May 2011, the Joanneum’s Cultural History Collection is opening its doors to the public again after a period of intense preparation and relocation. The building itself is one of the most important aristocratic townhouses in Graz’s old town, and has been comprehensively refurbished over the last year. As an authentic original ensemble in its own right, the Baroque interior of the Palais—for example, the impressive Mirror Room—has been integrated into the circuit of the new permanent exhibition, whose overriding theme is ‘status symbols’.
The exhibits on show represent political power, an aristocratic lifestyle and court education, and generally have a close historical link with Styria or Graz. Among the highlights of the Museum im Palais are for example the Styrian Ducal Hat (c. 1400), Frederick III’s Gothic state coach of around 1452 and the sole incontestably genuine transverse flute in the world made by the important French instrument-maker and flautist Jean Hotteterre, in around 1680.
The cultural history collection at the Joanneum goes back to an initiative by sculptor Karl Lacher (1850 – 1908), and was first open to the public in 1895 as the Cultural Historical and Arts & Crafts Museum. Originally it was housed in the Neo-Baroque museum building in Graz’s Neutorgasse, which from November 2011 will be integrated in the new Joanneum Quarter. Karl Lacher was fascinated by the movement that, spreading from the first world fair (the Great Exhibition) in London in 1851, rebelled against the power of industrialisation and the associated symptoms of decline in craftsmanship. It inspired numerous arts & crafts museums in Europe,
like for example the Victoria & Albert in London and the Germanisches Nationalmuseum in Nuremberg, which was long under Lacher’s sway. These newly established collections provided craftsmen with models, and, alongside the economic benefits of arts and crafts products, emphasised aesthetic quality above all. Lacher first came up with the idea of an arts & crafts museum in Graz in 1884. The objective was ‘a clear ethnographical image of the lifestyles, domestic lives and work of the inhabitants of Styria.’ Opened by Emperor Franz Joseph I in 1895, the Cultural History Collection could already boast of 5,394 exhibits then. Today, the number has risen to around 35,000 exhibits.
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