Friday, 21 February 2014

Deutsches Historisches Museum (Upstairs)

DHM Entrance Hall
The Deutsches Historisches Museum (or DHM for short) is based in the former Zeughaus (armoury), a pink confectionery box of Baroque at the top of Unter den Linden. It is adjacent to Museum Island, but a day-ticket for the other museums won't get you in: this is the federal German History Museum, and not owned by the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin. Instead, you pay your 8€ and get a small, coloured sticker that lets you wander around un-challenged by the numerous museum staff. Indeed, some days the staff seem to out-number the visitors, which is a shame because this museum is certainly worth visiting. We have a year pass that gives one named plus one other access to all the collections (price 70€), and these photos are from a visit on a Saturday in February.

The main collection describes the history of the German people and their interaction with other Europeans from the dawn of historical record to the present day. It is a bit fuzzy in its remit in that Germany as a nation didn't come into existence until 1871, and the unified states of Germany doesn't include all the people who speak or spoke German, but does include people to whom German is/was a foreign tongue. So, it is also the history of the Franks, Celts, Slavs, Vandals, Jews, Huguenots, and anyone else who just happened to settle in this large area of central Western Europe. Also it is the history of parts of Poland, Russia, and some Baltic states, because of course German domains were at one time a lot greater under Prussian rule. It must be so much easier being a curator at the British History Museum, where at least you have a geographical boundary of the coastlines to define your coverage.

This blog-post only covers the first-floor collection, which brings you up to the First World War. That is about all a visitor can comprehensively take in for one day before their brain explodes under the weight of Hohenzollern and Hapsburg family trees and the complexities of the many wars that have raged back and forth across the continent. Two hours is a rush, but three hours will see you staggering shell-shocked into the museum cafe. My advice is to save the rest of the Twentieth Century on the ground floor for another day, and keep special themed exhibitions as one-off experiences.

From the top of the stairs the logical direction to view the collection - i.e. the flow of historical timelines - is to proceed clockwise. There are brass arrows set into the floor that indicate the recommended 'Führung', but you will soon find yourself distracted off-piste. Don't worry. If you don't see everything and in the correct order then you won't be shot. That only happens on the ground-floor collection.

The exhibits are all well labelled, but not always with English translations. There are also information boards that broadly delineate a period of history or theme, which all have English translations that are pretty much true to the original. And you can also get an English audio-tour included in the price of admission, but I personally hate those headphones and their cacophony of facts and period music, so I can't comment how good or otherwise they are.

Anyway, here are some photos to tickle your interest. All a bit random and quirky to what attracted my attention, but generally in the order you might see them as you walk through time. By the way, non-flash photography is allowed for non-commercial use, but the lighting and the reflective glass cabinets are not conducive to making a good photographic record. I have done my best though, and spared you all the photos that mainly just show my reflection in the glass.

Another overview of the Deutsches Historisches Museum Entrance Hall
p.s. if you are in the centre of Berlin and need to take a leak, just wander in here and use the toilets:
they are clean and free!
'The Army' by Hitler's favorite sculptor, Arno Breker.
This used to be part of a pair together with 'The Party' at Albert Speer's new Reich Chancellery.
Now in the entrance lobby to the DHM.
Statue of Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov, better know to the World as Lenin,
leader of the Russian Revolution, writer, statesman, and father of modern communism.
Monty Python
Another gigantic statue in the entrance lobby of the DHM

Chain mail plus accessories.
What all the best Franks were wearing in the times of Charlemagne.
Sorry, I mean Karl der Große. Always get those two mixed up.

War Horse

Gravestone of Benjamin, son of Mordecai, 1284.
From the Jewish Community Cemetery Spandau (now part of Berlin)


Portraits of Luther and his wife Katharina Bora by Lucas Cranach

The Knights who say Ni!
The Saracens had much cooler armour
Photo to show you how the exhibits are laid out.
And how crowded the DHM is with visitors.
The most gruesome depiction of a crucifix I have ever seen
An actual copy of 'The Malleus Maleficarum'
Basically a handbook for how to prosecute witches in the Middle Ages.
An ivory 17th Century Totenkopf memento mori

Full-length portraits of a couple of Lange Kerls or 'Potsdam Giants'
Not an American Football team, but a regiment of taller than average soldiers recruited by Friedrich Wilhelm I.

Model of a galleon suspended from the ceiling for no apparent reason.

Portrait of Queen Elisabeth Christine of Brunswick-Wölfenbuttel
Married to her cousin, Friedrich Wilhelm II of Prussia who kept her neglected at Schloss Schönhausen, Pankow, whilst he lived the life of a bachelor at Sanssouci, Potsdam.  

Painting by Carl Traugott Fechhelm of the Zeughaus (on the right) where the DHM now is, looking up Unter den Linden towards where the Brandenburg Gate now is, in 1785.
And not a construction crane in sight (as there are now)!

Photo to show you that there were other visitors to the museum today.

An early pinball machine

Another visitor spotted.

'Group of Beggars' by Simon Troger, 1750
I love the Dudelsack (bagpipes) player in particular.

Busts of Enlightenment dudes

Lots more stuff from the German Enlightenment (die Aufklarung) period.
Goethe, Schiller, Immanuel Kant, that crowd.

König Georg III. Wilhelm Friedrich von Großbritannien und Irland
100% English through-and-through

Meanwhile, over in Berlin, King Friedrich Wilhelm II.

What all the rich people were wearing in the late 18th Century

Prussian general, Gerhard von Scharnhorst famous for his success against Napoleon
and for his rugged, Byronesque good-looks

And here's von Scharnhorst's adversary, Old Bony

Napoleon's hat and sword from the Battle of Waterloo.
Won't be needing that any more.

The Industrial Revolution takes off in Germany.
It will all end in tears, I tell you.

A rather pissed-off looking 'Germania' in the Watch on the Rhine.

Turn of the Century Germany exhibitions.
Let me emphasise: this is one of the most popular museums in the centre of Berlin, mid-day on a Saturday.

The early German car industry

Early German aviation exhibits.
Great statue of Icarus.

Painting of Frederick the Great, who amongst his achievements can be credited with
popularising the potato in German cuisine.

Detail from an enormous painting showing the inauguration of the Reichstag
by Kaiser Wilhelm II, just after his coronation in 1888.
Note the boy standing behind the emperor, who is Wilhelm's son Wilhelm, the last crown prince of Germany.

Bismarck's cuirassier uniform.
Bismarck actually never served in the cavalry (and barely in the army) but he loved to wear this uniform for official occasions.

Display of typical German army Pickelhelms

Marvellously dynamic sculpture of 'Gloria victis' by  Antonin Mercie, 1874

Poignant statue of Germania mourning - Trauernde Germania - by Michael Arnold 1868. Created in memory of the fallen at the Battle of Kissingen 1866 during the Austro-Prussian War. 

Detail of Trauernde Germania

Bust of Kaiser Wilhelm I

Painting of 'Kind mit deutscher Fahne vor Weihnachtsbaum' or 'child with German flag in front of a Christmas tree' by Friedrich Adolf Hornemann 1859. Significant because of the depiction of the revolutionary black-red-gold tricolore that would become the flag of a united Germany. Not sure why the boy is wearing a Scottish tartan dress though. 

Early German cast-iron printing press.

American First World War Posters

Who's to blame for the hardships caused by the First World War?
Yup, England and his British bulldog of course

Original oak-leaf wreath from the Neue Wache when it was inaugurated as monument to the fallen of World War I

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