This past Saturday was Long Night of the Museums here in Vienna. Once a year, most of the museums (and there are a lot of them) open their doors from 6 in the evening to 1 in the morning, and a single ticket (11 Euro for students) gets you into all of them. How great is that? Pretty darn great. Naturally, I was going, and two other Fulbright grantees came as well. The three of us met up outside of the Museumsquartier, bought our tickets, and began the Great Debate—which museums would we go to?
Tschuna and I had both heard really good things about the Museum für angewandte Kunst (Museum for Applied Arts), so we took the U3 out to Stubentor and had a look around. It is seriously cool. Since it’s a museum focusing on applied arts, it features tables and chairs instead of paintings or sculptures. There are exhibits on teapots, rugs, envelopes—the last one in particular made me laugh. The display case contained all sorts of beautiful envelopes: an embroidered 17th century French letter carrier, a velvet mail pouch from an imperial court—then, in the bottom right-hand corner, a perfectly ordinary plain white envelope like you can buy at Staples. It just goes to show that the French archaeologist from Raiders of the Lost Arkwas right: “Who knows, Dr. Jones, in a thousand years, even you may be worth something!”
They also had a really cool exhibit on the future of applied design. It included all sorts of objects—new materials for pacifiers, designs for headphones and smartphones, even a one-person car (they had a couple of those outside the museum, in case you wanted to try parking one, but I’m not so in love with parallel parking that I was going to wait in line to do it).
After the MAK, we had planned on going to the Albertina, which we knew was pretty near to the Museumsquartier. Once we got there, though, we realized that my compatriots had never been to the Kunsthistorisches Museum, and Tschuna was surprised to know I had never visited its twin, the Naturhistorisches Museum. Since we were already right there, we gave them a visit. The Kunsthistorisches was running a really cool exhibit, called “Face to Face with Klimt”. You see, back in the late 19thcentury, before he had left the Academy and founded the Secession movement, Klimt worked as what he called a “decorator of buildings”. One of these buildings was the recently-finished Kunsthistorisches Museum, where he painted scenes representing ancient Egypt on the walls. Now, normally these murals are too high up to be really seen from the central staircase where they’re located, but the museum had erected some stairs and a platform so visitors could properly examine the murals in detail. It was really amazing.
At the Naturhistorisches, we had only one major priority: see the dinosaurs.
The museum is organized chronologically, starting with minerals and meteorites, moving on to fossils, and then dinosaurs. The minerals section was more interesting than I had expected, because they had a special exhibit on salt. As early as the 8th century, Austria was mining salt, and this exhibit talked a bit about the history of salt mining in Austria, different types of salt, and even had taste-testing! They were also giving away free chunks of salt, so you know that I took one. I love free stuff.
The dinosaurs were, of course, amazing—they even had an animatronic dinosaur that would lean forward and roar. Its eyes moved, too, and I couldn’t really decide whether that made it more or less creepy. After seeing the dinosaurs, we realized that while the museums were technically open until 1 AM, we all wanted to head home while the subway was still running, so we called it a night. But what a night! I definitely need to make sure I visit more of Vienna’s amazing museums, since there was no way I could hit all 121 in a single night. My next goal? The Imperial Hat Museum (oh yes, that is a real thing, and I’m going).