Theater Museum Wien:
Vienna Theatre Museum in Palais Lobkowitz

The Theater Museum Vienna at Palais Lobkowitz shows historic costumes

Its by no means big news that Vienna is full of theatres and a city with a rich theatrical heritage. Think of the Burgtheater, the Volkstheater, the Theater in der Josefstadt or the operas of Vienna (Staatsoper, Kammeroper, Volkoper and Theater an der Wien). Theatres were part of the courtly life of the Habsburg capital for centuries. The theatre culture was formalised in the Baroque age, when plays were both cheerful entertainment and a mean to educate people about Catholic believes and why god wants the Habsburgs to be rulers.

During the Baroque age, the court started to collect costumes, decoration and other materials used for stage productions. This collection grew and grew over the course of decades and when the empire collapsed after WWI, the Austrian National Library opened an archive for the now vast collection. This archive was officially opened in 1922. Only one year later, a private collection of theatrical items was purchased.

In 1931, a theatre museum was first opened within the premises of the Burgtheater theatre. With the Anschluss of 1938, this museum was closed again. After WWII, the idea of a theatre museum was not immediately picked up again. Only in 1975, it was re-opened again and in 1982, the museum and the collection of the National Library were completely merged.

Re-opening of the Theatre Museum in Palais Lobkowitz

In 1979, the Republic of Austria had purchased the Palais Lobkowitz, and so things worked out well: The museum gained the official rank of a "Bundesmuseum" (museum of the federal republic) and in turn, moved into the fancy Palais. The re-opening in the new venue was celebrated in 1991. More recently, in 2001, the museum became a branch of the Kunsthistorisches Museum. And most recently, until 2008, the Palais Lobkowitz was extensively refurbished and is now all nice and shiny in its Baroque splendour.

So what is there to see in the Theatermuseum? A total of 1.6 million items, including more than 100,000 sketches, 1,000 stage designs as models and actual requisites, some 700,000 photographs, posters and promotional material. The oldest flyers date back to 1713 and is dedicated to a comedy. The extensive autograph collection includes Viennese and international celebrities such as Beethoven, Goethe, Wagner, Strauss and Mahler.

Particularly interesting items include costumes designed by famous artists, such as Oskar Kokoschka, Pablo Picasso or Fritz Wotruba. That being said, the museum is far from a stuffy place presenting vast amounts of dead material - it is in fact a very living collection, presented in quite an interactive, modern and light way.

History of Palais Lobkowitz

Now a few words about the history of Palais Lobkowitz: It was built for the Count Philipp Sigmund of Dietrichstein between 1690 and 1694. Johann Bernhard Fischer von Erlach was among the several builders that contributed to the construction. In 1745, the Palais was purchased by the Lobkowitz Family, who were important benefactors of Vienna′s Baroque theatrical and musical life. In 1799, Prince Franz Joseph Maximilian Lobkowitz opened a stage within the Palais.

Ludwig von Beethoven often performed here, which is why the Palais′s ceremonial hall is now called "Eroica-Saal" in honour of Beethoven′s third symphony. In 1812, the honourable "Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde" or "Society of Friends of Music" was founded at Palais Lobkowitz. After 1869, the Palais was rented to various parties, including the French and the Czech embassy.

After WWII, it served as a French cultural institute until 1979, when it was sold to the Republic of Austria. Between 1985 and 1991, the Palais was extensively refurbished so that it could accommodate its new purpose as a museum. In 2007 and 2008, the fašade and other parts of the Palais Lobkowitz were renovated again.

Nearby attractions include obviously the Hofburg and the Augustinerkirche Church, the Albertina, the National Library, the Stallburg and the Burggarten, to which the building is attached, but also a whole bunch of other nearby museums: The Kunsthistorisches and Naturhistorisches Museum, the Staatsoper with its own museum, the Jewish Museum, the Film Museum, the Academy of Fine Arts, the Emperors′ Tomb with the remains of several dozen Habsburg rulers. The Stephansdom is within walking distance.

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Further Reading

Official website of the Vienna Theatre Museum

Official Website of the Kunsthistorisches Museum

Complete List of Museums in Vienna