The collection of Schloss Trautenfels

Copper engraving depicting Trautenfels Castle. Mountains can be seen in the background. Copper engraving depicting Trautenfels Castle. Mountains can be seen in the background.

Image Credits

History of the collection

As part of the Universalmuseum Joanneum, Trautenfels Castle is one of the latest locations to join this oldest and second largest museum in Austria. In 1951, the Provincial Government of Styria decided to establish an additional location of the Universalmuseum Joanneum in the representation rooms of Trautenfels Castle in order to collect, preserve and document, research and make accessible the natural and cultural history of the district of Liezen. On 9 August 1959, the “Heimatmuseum” (local museum) was officially opened as a museum for the district of Liezen in Trautenfels Castle. On 21 November 1971, it was renamed “Landscape Museum Trautenfels Castle”, changing its name again to Trautenfels Castle in 2011.

Ever since the 1950s, natural scientists and researchers from the Joanneum have been exploring the region intensively for findings. Their collections served as a basis for the geology, mineralogy and zoology departments, which were essential to the Landscape Museum from the outset. Finds from various archaeological excavations were then added to the museum’s collections.

Karl Haiding (museum director 1955–1975),who was entrusted with establishing the museum, also serving as its first director, collected many exhibits from 1955 until the museum’s opening in 1959. His aim was to build a collection for the district of Liezen in an active attempt to counteract the loss of rural and artisanal material culture impending at the time. Within a short period of time, the museum’s collection was enlarged by a number of ethnologically valuable exhibits. The collection included farming tools, documents on house building, trade tools, household items, furniture, folk art and artefacts related to traditions and customs, as well as objects from everyday life of the people in the district of Liezen. With thematically planned special exhibitions (beekeeping and gingerbread making, forestry and timber, and Alpine pasture farming in Styria), it was possible to actively collect and document exhibits in the course of field research.

The expansion of the collection by Dr. Volker Hänsel (museum director 1975–2005) was part of a broader effort inspired by contemporary aspects of folklore collections at the end of the 20th century. He not only expanded the historical collection at Trautenfels Castle, but also began collecting objects from everyday life in the 20th century as early as the 1980s. Since the 1980s, effects from entire households, private collections and workshop inventories have since been gathered for the new collection of 20th century everyday culture in the district of Liezen. Private holdings of preserved specimens, minerals and rocks were included in the collection on nature.

Tasks, goals and positioning of the collection in the 21st century

Trautenfels Castle is uniquely positioned within the Universalmuseum Joanneum due to its specific regional mission and location. The historical collection includes objects ranging from classic folkloristic to zoological, mineralogical, geological and archaeological exhibits, including objects of everyday culture since 1945. As it is still required to document the culture and nature of the district of Liezen and their changes, it will remain essential to continue the extensive collection activity in a very targeted manner and to maintain the idea of a “miniature universal museum”. “Collecting a region” is the motto of Trautenfels Castle. The Landscape Museum and Trautenfels Castle hold a special place in the hearts of many people in the district of Liezen who are keen to ensure that objects and memorabilia from their families are preserved in “their local museum”.

Since its foundation, the Museum has been committed to preserving diverse cultural expressions as well as the regional identity and history of the district of Liezen and its residents. The Museum’s collections of artefacts and careful documentation of the district’s culture and nature are the outcome of years of extensive research and fieldwork.

Today, the collection comprises 42,000 objects, with the folklore collection making up the largest portion. The permanent exhibition comprises 1,000 objects. The photo archive includes 30,000 black and white photographs, 25,000 slides and more than 20,000 digital images.

Collection strategy, management and development

Trautenfels Castle is the part of the Universalmuseum Joanneum focused on the cultural and natural history of the district of Liezen. It therefore houses objects from a variety of collections of the Landscape Museum limited to a geographical area – the political district of Liezen. The existing collection – and therefore the permanent exhibition organised according to topic-specific rooms – focuses on alpine pasture farming, alpine agriculture, work, archaeology (excavations on the Dachstein plateau with evidence of early alpine farming), rural furniture, mining, customs and traditions, handicrafts, household and clothing as well as objects related to the history of Trautenfels Castle, objects from everyday life of people in the 20th century, textiles, objects related to worship, folk art, bricks, minerals and stones.

Since the 1970s, objects related to everyday culture have been collected in a supra-regional context. While these everyday objects from the 20th century are classified in that context, they are nevertheless embedded in specifically local contexts through the documentation and the history of the people from the region. Artefacts from the 20th century are much more short-lived and therefore disappear faster than traditional rural culture. Extensive inventories of middle-class and rural households from the district of Liezen represent the living conditions of individual people and document contemporary ways of 20th century life.

Expansion of the collection

The collection is selectively extended through subject-specific, interdisciplinary special exhibitions, participatory projects as well as donations and targeted purchases. 

Documenting and contextualising objects is a central concern of current and future collecting activities, not only in view of collecting the objects themselves, but also of gaining as much knowledge as possible about their origin and context of creation and use. The collection is expanded according to the principles of radical selectivity and significant excerpts. With a focus on the history of everyday life and the cultural and social history of the district of Liezen, the collection has gradually accumulated key objects from the 20th and 21st centuries.

Our goal is to retain the courage, creativity and the joy of selectively collecting unusual and special artefacts that are representative of the region, and thus be able to present contemporary contributions highlighting the regional identity of the district of Liezen in our exhibitions.

[1] During the Nazi era, the Volkskunde expert Karl Haiding (1906‒1985) held a high post, amongst others, in the Amt Rosenberg. Cf. Mindler Ursula, “…although I hadn’t made any concessions at all and my colleagues must have been aware of my gesamtdeutsche attitude…” Notes on Karl Haiding (1906‒1985). In: Österreichische Zeitschrift für Volkskunde, NS Volume LXIV, No.2 (2010), p.179‒202.


[2] “Alltagskultur seit 1945” (Everyday Culture since 1945): Numerous discussions within the working group on everyday culture since 1945 have revealed that it is impossible to apply general collection guidelines given the abundance of everyday objects. Key objects were selected as characteristic of their day and age, and individual museums defined their collection focuses within that particular context.