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Three Viennese Museums’ Responses to Covid-19. Two: The Museum of Vienna.

ObermuellerAlexander Obermueller currently works on his Master’s thesis on the Raiford prison uprising of 1971. Before coming to USF he graduated from the University of Vienna and worked on a project on the Austrian Civil War.

Three Viennese Museum’s Responses to the Current Crisis.

@wienmuseum Museum of Vienna

The city’s “general-purpose metropolitan museum” announced its closing with a generic text-based shareable on March 11th.1 Almost a week later the social media staff shared a poster of the 1937 hygiene fair in Vienna, bridging the present crisis with past events related to hygiene. Vienna witnessed these exhibits in 1906, 1925, and 1937. The post states that hygiene encompassed a wide variety of measures not just simply protection from infections. Wien Museum_Poster of the hygiene fair of 1937_March 17, 2020By using this poster, the social media staff shows flexibility and creativity connecting past and current events to call on the public to “stay save and at home.” The hash tags #museumfromhome and #closedbutactive are also frequently used. Hygiene makes another appearance in a post about the renowned Viennese architect Otto Wagner. By stressing Wagner’s focus on comfort and hygiene as pillars of truly modern architecture, the long history of concern for hygiene is once more displayed.

In their next post, museum staff again refers to the current crisis and advertises its reading material at the same time. By depicting a backpack used by food delivery personnel, a booming job not only because restaurants closures, museum staff simultaneously refer to a new reality and reminds its audience of previous exhibitions on service sector jobs at the same time. Wien Museum_Food delivery backpack_March 19, 2020Attuned to the more casual tone on Instagram, staff posted a picture that lauds well-practiced social distancing: Only one person sits on each bench in the park outside of the Wien Museum. Again, the connection between the crisis and new social practices, namely social distancing, is tied to the museum by using a picture of the near vicinity.

Wien Museum_Social distancing at the park in front of the museum_March 20, 2020The new reality forces many of us to be confined to our homes by shelter in place ordinances all across the world. For those lucky enough to continue their jobs at home and not being fired, this change often results in a more relaxed working experience. Fitness and recipe challenges pop up all over the Internet to make the prolonged indoor stay bearable. Especially those employed in secure jobs and equipped with financial savings embrace the new homemaking or Biedermeier movement and embark on proper baking sprees. Being on lock down also confronts people with their living space and the Wien Museum jumps that train by referencing museums’ focus on and exhibitions about the home under the hash tag #atmuseumsanywhere. By sharing a picture of author Franz Grillparzer’s home, the social media team acknowledges the current, (en)forced fixation on the home.Wien Museum_At Home_Franz Grillparzer's home_March 24, 2020

In the last post, museum staff references lock down as a well rehearsed strategy against infectious diseases throughout history. Picturing the Viennese plague column erected in 1693 between deserted outdoors cafés evokes a deserted image of a City on lock down. A user even notices the black color umbrellas, which resemble black ribbons. A link leading to an article on hygiene in Vienna and the construction of the sewerage system accompanies the picture. In an effort to include the public the Wien Museum initiated Corona in Vienna: A Historical Collection Project. To catalogue the impact of the crisis on daily lives, the museum called on the public to send “photos of things that exemplify your new private or professional life in the times of Corona.” Museum officials promise to include these objects into the museums collection. Among the pictures already submitted are Corona themed graffiti, documentation of fever curve and an emergency phone call, empty shelves without toilet papers, a homemade face mask, a stuffed toy virus, a shopping list of an elderly neighbor who was not able to go outside, and depictions of home schooling experiences.

Wien Museum, in contrast to the Jewish Museum of Vienna, refrains from any references to their current exhibition, but instead chooses to embed the current state of emergency into the history of infectious diseases, hygiene, and changes in daily life. The museum’s blog even features long-reads about the history of greeting rituals. While the JMV aims at attracting visitors to its existing exhibition, the Wien Museum called on the public to contribute their experiences and objects that exemplify this unprecedented crisis.

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