After the Grand Duke of Oldenburg was forced to abdicate in 1918, at the end of the First World War, the new government decided to use his old palace as a museum. I don’t know what the museum had to offer when it first opened in 1923 [well, I know now; see the comments below], but today it is called the State Museum for Art and Cultural History (Landesmuseum für Kunst und Kulturgeschichte Oldenburg) and has a bit of everything, organized chronologically: “More than 800 exhibits from antiquity to the recent past show the diversity of the Oldenburger Land over the centuries,” as it says in their brochure.
What struck me about their exhibit on the Middle Ages was how generic it is — it could have been anywhere in Medieval Europe. It shows a suit of armor, two cannon balls, several helmets and a detailed sketch of a castle being stormed. The sketch presumably shows the Oldenburg Castle being overrun by the troops of the Duke of Braunschweig in the year 1261.
Since Oldenburg is in the far northwest corner of Germany, between Bremen and the Netherlands’ border, I had somehow assumed it would be a more maritime place, but in fact it is 30 km from the nearest deep-water harbor, and the Duchy of Oldenburg at that time was just as landlocked as any of the other pipsqueak duchies in Hessen or Thüringen or wherever.
The beginning of the 16th century is represented by this detailed wood carving called “The Twelve Apostles”. Actually I only count ten apostles, with beards, along with a beardless person who looks more like a woman — perhaps Mary Magdalene, bringing food and drink. Each of the apostles is holding something: a begging can, a tree trunk, a book, a battle-axe, a bishop’s staff, a sword, etc. The red-faced, guilty-looking apostle on the far right might be Judas Iscariot, holding what looks like a miniature cross.
Only one of the apostles is wearing shoes, as far as I can see. The rest are barefoot.
This velocipede, an early form of bicycle, was in use in Oldenburg in the 19th century, as was this bedraggled-looking carriage.
The symbolist artist Hugo Höppener (1868-1948), better known as “Fidus”, had no particular connection to Oldenburg, since he was born in Lübeck and lived mainly in and around Berlin. But his paintings and drawings were popular all over Germany in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, as an expression of the Jugendstil or Art Nouveau movements.
Hardly anyone is still alive who remembers the hyper-inflation of the early 1920s, but the trauma lives on among German economists and politicians, who still tend to panic at the slightest sign of inflation, even in phases when inflation is not at all the problem. The display case shows paper money of that time, such as a Fifty-Million-Mark bill in the lower right-hand corner.
This 8mm film projector, along with a camera and splicer, are probably from the late 1950s. In any case, they are more sleek and modern-looking than the ones we used to have at home when I was growing up near Chicago.
Somewhere in the attic I’m sure I still have some of my old 45 rpm (=revolutions per minute) records, which were the latest thing during my childhood. The combination radio-phonograph on the right could play all three kinds of records that were common at the time: the old-fashioned 78 rpm records that our grandparents had, the newer 45s (with the large round holes in the middle) and the up-market 33 rpm long-playing records that we children usually couldn’t afford.
No exhibit on West Germany in the 1950s would be complete without a Nierentisch, a kidney-shaped table that was universally popular in those years. This is exactly the sort of living room that I remember from my first visits to Germany in the early 1960s, complete with a rotary-dial telephone, a black-and-white television and a radio full of vacuum tubes.
Probably no politician in post-war West Germany was more popular than Ludwig Erhard, at least during his tenure as Minister of Economic Affairs.
This museum text is headed: Wir sind wieder Wer — Das Wirtschaftswunder der 1950er Jahre, which means roughly: “We are again Somebody — The economic miracle of the 1950s.”
The text reads: “The currency reform of 1948 and the connection to the West prepared the way for the economic rise of the young Federal Republic. With the help of the American development program, the so-called Marshall Plan, and a policy of Social Market Economy, the goal of ‘prosperity for all’, as propagated by Economics Minister Ludwig Erhard, could become a reality.”
My photos in this post are from 2016. I wrote the text in 2021.