Germany
memories of a nation

A 600-year history in objects

16 October 2014 – 25 January 2015

Exhibition closed

 
Sponsored by Betsy and Jack Ryan

With support from
Salomon Oppenheimer Philanthropic Foundation

Germany
memories of a nation

A 600-year history in objects

16 October 2014 – 25 January 2015 
Exhibition closed

Sponsored by Betsy and Jack Ryan

With support from Salomon Oppenheimer Philanthropic Foundation


This exhibition examines elements of German history from the past 600 years in the context of the fall of the Berlin Wall 25 years ago.

From the Renaissance to reunification and beyond, the show uses objects to investigate the complexities of addressing a German history which is full of both triumphs and tragedies.

Navigate through Germany’s many political changes – from the Holy Roman Empire through unification in the 1870s and the troubled 20th century to today’s economic powerhouse at the centre of Europe.

Explore art by Dürer, Holbein and Richter, and marvel at technological achievements through the ages which gave the world Gutenberg’s printing press, Meissen porcelain, the Bauhaus movement and modern design icon the VW Beetle.


Highlights

Sculpture of 'Dresden Trümmerfrau' made from ceramic fragments, by Max Lachnit, c.1945 © Deutsches Historisches Museum
Wir sind ein Volk (‘We are one people’) demonstration banner, 1989. © Deutsches Historisches Museum
Bauhaus Cradle by Peter Keler, originally designed in 1922 and still in production today. British Museum
Automated clock in the form of a 'nef', or galleon, made by Hans Schlottheim, Augsburg, c. 1585. British Museum

Images clockwise from top left:
1.Sculpture of 'Dresden Trümmerfrau' made from ceramic fragments, by Max Lachnit, c.1945 © Deutsches Historisches Museum
2.Wir sind ein Volk (‘We are one people’) demonstration banner, 1989. © Deutsches Historisches Museum
3.Automated clock in the form of a 'nef', or galleon, made by Hans Schlottheim, Augsburg, c. 1585. British Museum
4.Bauhaus Cradle by Peter Keler, originally designed in 1922 and still in production today. British Museum. © Estate of Peter Keler


Blog: Käthe Kollwitz, a Berlin story

Käthe Kollwitz, Frau mit totem Kind (Woman with dead child) 1903

Käthe Kollwitz, Frau mit totem Kind (Woman with dead child) 1903, 7th state, soft-ground etching and engraving with green and gold wash, 415 x 480 mm. © DACS 2014 (1949,0411.3928)

Frances Carey, art historian
28 October 2014

The seated figure of an elderly woman cast in bronze presides over a square in a part of north east Berlin known as Kollwitzkiez, the ‘Kollwitz district’, where Käthe Schmidt (1867-1945) came to live in 1891 on her marriage to Dr Karl Kollwitz. The sculpture by Gustav Seitz, installed in 1960, was commissioned under the DDR (German Democratic Republic) just as the renaming of Wörtherplatz and Weissenburger Strasse had been done in her honour in 1947. The nearest U-Bahn station is Senefelderplatz, opened in 1923 and named after another notable figure in the history of printmaking, Alois Senefelder, who is credited with the discovery of lithography in 1796.

Read more 


Written by Neil MacGregor

How much do we really understand Germany, and how do its people understand themselves?

German history is unlike any other. Uniquely for any European country, no coherent, over-arching narrative can be constructed for it; the jigsaw pieces, as Neil MacGregor argues in his enthralling new book, do not fit together - not least because they are so often found in cities which are no longer German. Königsberg, home to Immanuel Kant and later to the seminal German painter and printmaker Käthe Kollwitz, is now Kaliningrad, Russia; Strasbourg, in whose cathedral Johann Wolfgang von Goethe discovered the distinctiveness of German art and history, now lies within the borders of France.

Instead, MacGregor sets out in this book to describe what the German people collectively hold in their minds about their history by telling the stories behind some of its most important objects, ideas and places. Naturally, the Second World War features, along with its background of 'degenerate' art, but MacGregor's aim is to offer an offer an unexpected and alternative view to the one commonly held. Beginning with the fifteenth-century invention of moveable type by Johannes Gutenberg, he moves through Germany's cuisine and its culture, its art and philosophy, its manufacture and design, its landscape and people, some famous (Karl Marx, Albrecht Dürer) and others not, and through the disparate figures who have helped to forge its political and national identity.

Germany: Memories of a Nation goes to the heart of a country and a people that have remade our world again and again, for better or worse. It is a view of Germany like no other.

Buy the book 


Written and presented by Neil MacGregor

In partnership, BBC Radio 4 and the British Museum explore the fascinating and complex history of Germany in a 30-part radio series.

The series examines the key moments that have defined Germany’s past, its great, world-changing achievements and its devastating tragedies, and explore the profound influence that Germany’s history, culture and inventiveness have had across Europe.

Listen via the BBC website 


Floating Frontiers

These maps show how the German borders have constantly shifted over the centuries, and encompass many areas that are now in separate countries. The nation of Germany we know today is made up of many smaller territories.

  • Germany around 1500

    Germany around 1500

  • Germany in 1810

    Germany in 1810

  • Germany 1871-1914

    Germany 1871-1914

  • Germany 1945 to today

    Germany 1945 to today


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