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Prologue


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‘When as a woman you find yourself among a group of men, the situation can go in a lot of different directions. And often in a direction that is not so positive for you’.

Let’s take a look back into the past. What do we remember?

The men who influenced the course of world and the world itself. Decision-makers, politicians, authors, artists, intellectuals.

And where are the women? Don’t they make history? Didn’t they also have an impact on the past and present?

Of course they did, and many to a greater extent than their male contemporaries. Without Catherine the Great, Russia would not have become a world power. Without Marie Curie, the momentous beginnings of molecular physics would have taken place much later. Without the frequency hopping technique developed by Hedy Lamarr we might not have GPS or wireless Internet today.

Of course women do appear in history books. However, lexicons are filled with the names of men after men, after men, after men... and women are left on the margins. Not to speak of other genders.

In the year 2020, we found it imperative to address the question of ‘forgotten women’, also at Museum Angewandte Kunst. During research for a collection exhibition, we first came across the name ‘Dr Annaliese Ohm’.

 ‘[…] I don’t know the reason why she was forgotten, she was so outstanding. […] I don’t understand it either. She was a personality that you don’t easily forget. When I see the Museum Angewandte Kunst, I think about Dr Annaliese Ohm […]’

Without Annaliese Ohm you would not be standing in front of this magnificent museum building today. She was the only female director up until now, and during her era she was an absolutely exceptional person. Not only as one of the few women in leading positions in a museum but also as a pioneer of museum pedagogy and in the way she cultivated young talent.

A visionary, she shaped Museum Angewandte Kunst and the cultural landscape of Frankfurt in a lasting manner. All of her contemporaries hold warm memories of her and even describe the time spent working with her as the most wonderful and productive time of their lives.

By 2020, just about 40 years later, there was hardly any trace of Ohm, except for the new building. No Wikipedia entry and not even a plaque, a commemoration, or a mention of her anywhere in or on the museum building.

As young museum makers, we want to contribute toward writing history properly. With this tour we close gaps in the history of the museum and acknowledge Annaliese Ohm and her accomplishments their well-earned place in history.

 

Welcome to Angewandte Walk.

 

Sources:

Eva-Maria Hanebutt-Benz, recorded interview conducted at Museum Angewandte Kunst, Frankfurt am Main, August 30, 2021, min. 46:36-46:46.

Ivonne Rochau-Balinge,recorded interview conducted at Museum Angewandte Kunst, Frankfurt am Main, August 30, 2021, min. 41:22-41:43.

A Villa as Museum

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The original building of the then Museum für Kunsthandwerk in Neue Mainzer Strasse was completely destroyed in World War II. It subsequently took more than twenty years to find a space for the museum and to make the collection, which was scattered in crates throughout the city, once again accessible to the public. Villa Metzler, the historic building in front of which you are now standing, provided a permanent site for the museum after a long time. Built in 1804 as a private home, the building at least enabled the exhibition of a portion of the collection. However, this was only possible with substantial limitations. The very small and cramped rooms of the villa only permitted the presentation of a very select number of objects from the collection.

This unsatisfactory situation sparked art historian Dr. Annaliese Ohm’s vision for a new museum building that would bring more attention and international recognition to the collection. A place where people could engage with the objects and enjoy spending time.

The new building was not only intended to create space for objects, people, and encounters but also to create jobs and establish what at the time was considered a progressive form of educational programming, in which museum pedagogy had its own space. The new architecture was conceived as a place of intercultural exchange and dialogue, a means of building bridges.

With great tactical skill and intelligence, Ohm dedicated all her energies towards the realization of such a building. Curator Dr. Sabine Runde describes her former boss’s assertiveness:

‘She could be very hot-tempered, and there was a story about her taking off her shoe and pounding on the table with the heel in a meeting with Hilmar Hoffman. I found this a wonderful picture, because I think she was utterly capable of such a gesture’.

Her strength of will in pushing things through and her persistence enabled Ohm’s vision to succeed—something that two preceding directors had failed to achieve.

 

Sources:

Margrit Bauer, ‘Geschichte des Museums und seine Sammlung‘, in: Museum. Museum für Kunsthandwerk in Frankfurt am Main, Braunschweig: 1985, p. 17.

Margrit Bauer and Joachim Schwarzkopf, eds., Museum für Kunsthandwerk Frankfurt am Main, Frankfurt am Main, 1987, p. 10.

Volker Fischer, Richard Meier. Der Architekt als Designer, Stuttgart, 2003, p. 82.

Sabine Runde, recorded interview conducted at Museum Angewandte Kunst, Frankfurt am Main, August 30, 2021, starting at 10:20.

A House Full of Light for the Collection

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Since Dr Annaliese Ohm’s appointment as director of the then Museum für Kunsthandwerk in 1974, she worked to create a place where the collection, most of which was stored away, could be seen. There was no space for such a presentation in Villa Metzler, where the museum was located, and numerous exhibitions therefore had to be staged in the nearby Carmelite monastery. Exhibition catalogues were strategically published to demonstrate the outstanding quality of the collection as well as the necessity for a new building for the museum.

For this undertaking, Ohm partnered with US-American architect Richard Meier, who designed the building for her vision of the museum. She valued the architect’s ability to integrate and work from existing structures. For example, he took into consideration the old trees on the property, and it was important to him to preserve and incorporate the exhibition space in the classicist Villa Metzler.

Inspired by the square-shaped plan of the villa, Meier organised his new structure into three additional squares, which frame the villa like an L. Glass bridges connect the individual structures. Between the four buildings lies an inner courtyard with a fountain and stone benches. Pathways leading to areas of the surrounding park create an interconnected public realm. The grey Italian “Serizzo Antigoriol” granite runs from the inner courtyard to the foyer of the museum, thus joining the building interior and exterior. Ohm wished to create a vital museum, a place where people would like to spend time and a space that would give the museum’s collection optimal visibility.

A member of the administrative staff at the time, Inge Burggraf, explains just how important the realisation of the new building was to Ohm: ‘We tried to get the money to make the new building as Dr Ohm wanted it to be. We were not sure if we would really receive the funding. On the way to the man in charge of accounting, who was supposed to approve the funds  […] she got scared that she would be turned down. That’s why she cried’. These tears later became tears of joy.

During the three years of construction, Ohm consistently had to defend the original plans. This gave rise to the myth of her daily morning visit to the city’s Department of Culture. The head of the department at the time, Hilmar Hoffmann, joked in his speech at Ohm’s retirement celebration: ‘If Mrs Ohm was not immediately given an appointment with me, she would be standing at the door to my office the next morning at 8:00 am’. City planners demanded downsizing in order to save costs. The state department of historical preservation objected to cutting into the façade of the villa to build the connecting bridge. But Annaliese Ohm prevailed, so that the new building could be completed in 1984 exactly as originally planned and the collection finally found a new home.

Curator Dr Sabine Runde began working at the museum during this building phase and recalls: ‘This was a very crucial phase, because the new building was opened in 1985, and it was due to the energetic efforts of Dr Ohm that it was even built’. […] ‘It was a very intense time, because it meant that the entire museum was moved from a small space to a large one’.

In her retirement speech from 1987, Ohm described her goals for the building that had opened to the public two years earlier: creating a vital framework of appropriately large scale, which also incorporated nature and did not lose sight of the human dimension. Ohm wished to make applied art accessible to people. The collection encompassed both historical and contemporary objects from Europe and Asia. In her opening speech Ohm emphasised the crossing north-south and east-west axes in the architecture, using this to refer to the international origins of objects in the collection. On these axes we can mentally travel to places such as Beijing and Tokyo on the one side and to the US and Canada on the other.

Finally, Ohm had enough space to present the collection in accordance with her vision and to make it accessible to the public, in a space six times as large as Villa Metzler. During the first two years after the museum opened over 750,000 people visited the museum, many simply because of the architecture, which the Süddeutsche Zeitung described as the: ‘most spectacular and beautiful new museum building in the Federal Republic of Germany’.

However, criticism was voiced even at the time of the opening of Richard Meier’s building. Hear more about this at the station A Look Inside. The Museum Furnishings of 1985.

 

Sources:

Margrit Bauer, recorded interview conducted at Museum Angewandte Kunst, Frankfurt am Main, September 1, 2021.

Margrit Bauer, Museum für Kunsthandwerk Frankfurt am Main. 1974–1987, Frankfurt am Main 1987, p. 8.

Inge Burggraf,recorded interview conducted at Museum Angewandte Kunst, Frankfurt am Main, August 30, 2021, min. 24:10-24:17 and 24:50-25:24.

Hilmar Hoffmann, ‘Mitteilung zur Eröffnung des Neubaus’, a notice published by the city council and head of the department of culture, approx. 1985, p. 10.

Hilmar Hoffmann, speech marking the retirement of Dr Annaliese Ohm, manuscript, May 20, 1987, p. 5.

Claudia Michels, ‘Für das Kunsthandwerk ein Haus voll Licht’, Frankfurter Stadtrundschau, April 24, 1985.

Annaliese Ohm, farewell address, manuscript, May 20, 1987, p. 2.

Annaliese Ohm, ‘Neubau des Museums für Kunsthandwerk’, draft of an informational brochure for the city of Frankfurt, approx. 1987.

Press and communications office of the City of Frankfurt, ‘Bundesverdienstkreuz für Dr. Annaliese Ohm. Bürgermeister Dr. Hans-Jürgen Moog überreicht den Orden’, press release, November 11, 1987.

Sabine Runde,recorded interview conducted at Museum Angewandte Kunst, Frankfurt am Main, August 30, 2021, min. 2:00-2:17 and 2:31-2:38.

Doris Schmidt, ‘Abschied für Annaliese Ohm. Wechsel im Frankfurter Museum für Kunsthandwerk’, Süddeutsche Zeitung, no. 132, June 11, 1987, p. 37.

A Look Inside: The Museum Furnishings of 1985

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Let us mentally visit the reopening of Museum für Kunsthandwerk in 1985. We would experience the building differently than we do now. Just like today, we’d find the entry hall, a restaurant, a space for changing exhibitions, the library, and the administrative offices on the ground floor. As soon as we would go up the ramp to the first floor, we would be standing in the rooms dedicated to the permanent exhibition. Since Dr Annaliese Ohm had primarily aimed to create a space for presenting the museum’s collection, the area constituted of a landscape of built-in display cases and pedestals, which also served as freestanding room dividers. Richard Meier designed these together with the building.

The European collection was on view throughout the entire first floor, where you are now standing, as well as in Villa Metzler. Organized chronologically from the Middle Ages to the present, each epoch had its own room where various objects and materials were displayed. Through a bridge Villa Metzler was included on the circular route of the exhibition. The second floor was dedicated to the East Asian and Islamic collections as well as the calligraphic and book arts section with the graphics studio.

Annaliese Ohm and her colleagues organized the collection geographically, separating the European and non-European objects. Curator Dr Sabine Runde recalls Ohm‘s plans:

‘Generally, she was very well aware of the differences between East Asia and Europe and therefore placed these respective aspects of the collection on two different floors. And it is interesting that on the second floor, where the East Asian collection was shown, Meier gave these rooms different proportions, which of course you can’t comprehend today, because the collection is no longer presented here. However, one used to notice a major difference between going through the first floor, the European collection, and then walking up the ramp and arriving on the second floor in the East Asian collection. There was a different division of space, because the windows went all the way down to the floor’.

She explains the decision of the architect as based on the idea that ‘in Japan, in Asia everywhere […] life is considered to unfold on the floor’.

The exhibition concept developed at that time was sober and scientific and hardly adapted to Richard Meier’s extraordinary architecture. Ivonne Rochau-Balinge recalls the differences of opinion between the architect and the museum director. Richard Meier wanted ‘a museum with a great deal of glass, with many windows, and Ohm wanted a museum with large exhibition spaces. She wanted to be able to display many items. And that’s not possible with glass all around […]’

Ultimately, Richard Meier and Annaliese Ohm agreed on an interior architecture that would protect delicate objects from too much sun. The newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung ran the headline ‘Lost in Space’ for its article on the opening of the new building, criticising that all the built-in furnishings chopped up the expansive spaces. Writer Arianna Giachi notes that ‘in this new building almost nothing is graced with such an appealing view as the Frankfurt cathedral, visible from the window on the ramp’.

In today’s museum one will notice that the permanent collection, shown in the period rooms and the exhibition Elementary Parts: From the Collections takes up less space that the rooms used for alternating exhibitions. The museum was renovated in 2013, and a major impetus behind the renovation was to recover Richard Meier’s original architecture. The furnishings of the display cases and pedestals were removed. The rooms became airier, and new visual axes opened up. However, due to the large windows on the façade, internal walls are still built for exhibitions in order to protect the objects from too much sunlight.

Was Ohm aware that the modern glass building does not provide ideal exhibition conditions? She certainly understood the important effect of a building, centrally located on the footbridge known as Eiserner Steg, whose presence was highly visible in the city. Maybe for this reason she made her peace with the added furnishings in order to present objects according to her vision. Art historian Dr Eva-Maria Hanebutt-Benz remembers ‘that especially striking exemplars were picked out and always combined with one another. There was not just furniture in one room and pots and plates in another, but instead cross references were created, which made it engaging’.

The usage of the exhibition space today, for changing exhibitions, events, and performances, is a further articulation of Annaliese Ohm’s desire to make the museum a vital place.

 

Sources:

Arianna Giachi, ‘Im Raum verlieren sich die Dinge. Die Einrichtung des neuen Museums für Kunsthandwerk in Frankfurt’, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, no. 98, April 27, 1985.

Eva-Maria Hanebutt-Benz, recorded interview conducted at Museum Angewandte Kunst, Frankfurt am Main, August 39, 2021, min. 13:50-14:10.

Annaliese Ohm, ‘Geschichte des Museums und seiner Sammlung’, in Museum. Museum für Kunsthandwerk Frankfurt am Main, Braunschweig 1985, p. 18f.

Ivonne Rochau-Balinge, recorded interview conducted at Museum Angewandte Kunst, Frankfurt am Main, August 30, 2021, min. 10:47-11:05.

Sabine Runde,recorded interview conducted at Museum Angewandte Kunst, Frankfurt am Main, August 30, 2021, min. 33:06-33:12.

Bärbel Vischer, Die Aktuelle Museumspräsentation der fünf größten Kunstgewerbemuseen im deutschsprachigen Raum: Wien, Berlin, Hamburg, Frankfurt, Köln, masters thesis, Department of Humanities of the University of Innsbruck, Innsbruck 1999.

The Director as Curator

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You now stand in the permanent exhibition Elementary Parts: From the Collections. This is the heart of the museum. Items are shown here independent of the collection they belong to, their geographic provenance, or their date of origin. Objects are presented next to each other in their respective uniqueness.

The museum continues to draw from the diverse acquisitions made during Dr Annaliese Ohm’s tenure, a number of which are on view here. Through her discerning judgment in the selection of the objects and her passion for glass, contemporary crafts took on new significance. In 1976 Ohm initiated the first European exhibition on the international Studio Glass movement. The movement, which emerged in the US and used the medium of glass to produce artwork divested of function. This method of working artistically with a small studio glass oven fostered an imaginative approach to the material. With this exhibition, Ohm managed to achieve recognition for studio glass as an artistic practice, as curator Dr Sabine Runde recalls:

‘She produced an incredible extensive exhibition on the international Studio Glass Movement. Our collection has a rich assortment of those objects, which she purchased at the time. Also, she experienced all the artists live: She travelled to America, where she met the Studio Glass artists in their workshops and at their studio ovens. She also travelled throughout Germany and took part in the symposia organised at the time. I think this was a main source of inspiration for her placing such focus on contemporary works. She saw how the artists were working – those interactions sparked an enormous amount of enthusiasm’.

Annaliese Ohm subsequently purchased the glass object by Marvin Bentley Lipofsky exhibited here in Elementary Parts.

As director of the museum, Ohm entered her position with a concept aimed towards highlighting the international importance of the collection. She developed a clear, didactic program, through which she intended to demonstrate the influences, similarities, and differences between objects from diverse cultural spheres. Visitors were not supposed to merely be given an art historical overview but also vital insights into the social changes accompanying different epochs. Ohm understood the museum as a place of encounter, not just for visitors but also between different cultures. A fundamental concept of the museum was the notion that European culture is part of a larger, overarching culture spanning Europe and Asia.

In her farewell address of 1987, Annaliese Ohm described this as follows:

‘As clearly demonstrated by the inclusion of its various manifestations [Ohm is here referring to art] above and beyond all borders on an international level, there have always been connections between the most distant places on earth, connections which are sometimes obvious and sometimes obscure’.

Curator Sabine Runde recounts Ohm’s relationship to objects in the museum: ‘[…] She had a great love and affinity for the things and found great joy in sharing them with others. She obviously had a vision that she wanted to communicate’.

During Annaliese Ohm’s tenure, the museum collected works of applied art from four areas: European, East Asian, Islamic, and book and calligraphic arts. One outstanding exemplar in Elementary Parts, which already belonged to the collection during Ohm’s day, is the Liebestempel (Love Temple) by Johann Joachim Kändler. In addition, an important acquisition under Ohm was the Toilettentisch (Dressing Table) by Abraham and David Roentgen, which is also on view in the permanent collection.

Also, in 1978 Ohm initiated the first Triennale des Deutschen Kunsthandwerks (Triennial of German Crafts), which took place here in the museum ten times in sequence through 2012 and usually included a partner country. She hereby not only made high-quality craft accessible to her audiences but also provided artists a space to exhibit. She presented contemporary craftsmen and craftswomen and purchased their works for the museum collections.

Annaliese Ohm’s concept of a museum—as a place that needs to “stay vital, transformable, and open, breaking new paths and recognizing new trends”—remains a fundamental tenet of the museum today.

 

Sources:

 

Margrit Bauer, recorded interview conducted at Museum Angewandte Kunst, Frankfurt am Main, September 1, 2021.

Margrit Bauer and Joachim Schwarzkopf (eds.), Museum für Kunsthandwerk Frankfurt am Main. 1974–1987. Frankfurt am Main: Museum für Kunsthandwerk, 1987, p. 3 and 10ff.

Hilmar Hoffmann, Museum für Kunsthandwerk Frankfurt am Main. 1974–1987, Frankfurt am Main: Museum für Kunsthandwerk, 1987, p. 10

Museum für Kunsthandwerk (eds.), brochure, Europäische Abteilung. Glas vom Jugendstil bis zur Gegenwart, 1990.

Oe., ‘Weizsäcker eröffnet neues Museum. Europa und Asien’, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, April 26, 1985.

Annaliese Ohm, Farewell Address, manuscript May 20, 1987, p. 2f.

Annaliese Ohm, Exhibition Concept, application for museum director, 1974, employee file, preserved at Institut für Stadtgeschichte Frankfurt am Main, pp. 11–13.

Press and Communications Office of the City of Frankfurt, ‘Große Verdienste um das Deutsche Kunsthandwerk. Zum Abschied der Museumsdirektorin Dr. Annaliese Ohm’, press release, May 18, 1987.

Sabine Runde,recorded interview conductedat Museum Angewandte Kunst, Frankfurt am Main, August 30, 2021, from min. 33:50, from min. 35:00.

Building Bridges

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The bridge that you are currently standing on joins the historic Villa Metzler with the architecture of the new building from 1985. Visitors can seamlessly move between the old and the new architecture without going outside.

The Hesse State Office of Historical Preservation originally approved the new building under the condition that the bridge would not be constructed. However, Annaliese Ohm was not willing to accept this stipulation. Instead, she convinced the political representatives of the City of Frankfurt to keep the bridge as originally planned. Thus, space was left in the respective wall in order to install the connecting structure later on. This did not go unnoticed by the State of Hesse and ultimately this encouraged the respective Minister of Culture, Hans Krollmann, to issue an order forbidding the construction of the bridge.

Annaliese Ohm—determined, persistent, and tenacious—did not allow herself to be deterred, and stuck to her original plans. She envisioned an open museum, where visitors could enjoy engaging with the collection. She did not want to make any compromises.

Together with the political representatives of the City of Frankfurt she continued to advocate for the bridge. The respective heads of Frankfurt’s Department of Construction and Department of Culture, Hans-Erhard Haverkampf and Hilmar Hoffmann, supported Annaliese Ohm’s argument that ‘the bridge joining the old and the new building is essential in terms of the didactical aims of the museum’. Without a bridge it would be impossible to circulate between Villa Metzler and the new building. In addition, the bridge was the only way to make Villa Metzler accessible for wheelchairs.

Finally, on his last day in office as Cultural Minister of Hesse, Hans Krollmann went against the recommendations of his own office and issued permission for the museum bridge, which was installed one month before the final completion of the building. Why Krollmann changed his mind unfortunately remains unclear. Did he allow himself to be swayed by Ohm’s drive, her arguments, and her passionate support for the new museum construction?

In any case, the bridge remains a symbol of Ohm’s relentless insistence and persuasive skill. It demonstrates how things that initially seem inalterable can in fact be changed.

 

Sources:

U. M. R.: ‘Abschiedsgabe’ des Kultusministers: Museumsbrücke wird gebaut. Krollmann revidiert eigenen Erlass / Hoffmann und Haverkampf setzten sich durch / Protest von SPD und Grünen’, editorial, Frankfurter Rundschau, no. 171, Frankfurt am Main, July 25, 1984.

Invitation to Appropriation

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You are standing in front of the basement level terrace that belongs to Create. Create is the name of the education and mediation department at Museum Angewandte Kunst, which used to be called the department of museum pedagogy, a term that many still use. Today it goes without saying that museum pedagogy is an integral part of a museum institution or museum visit.

A few decades ago the situation was quite different. Whether Create or museum pedagogy by name, an individual approach to art and culture was not automatically taken into consideration during the era of Dr Annaliese Ohm. However, art education was very important to her. She was particularly committed to familiarising museum audiences with contemporary crafts.

Already in her 1974 application for director of the museum she wrote:

‘When visitors without any kind of specialised knowledge stand in front of these things, they can’t fathom the social context and functional processes that lead to the development of the objects, unless they are provided with information. I consider it important to offer support with these kinds of communication issues and learning processes that result from visitors’ interaction with objects’.

She also argued: ‘Only in a new building would it be possible to present a permanent exhibition showing all objects of didactical and art historical value. Then everyone would be able to have the more comprehensive educational experience that they deserve’.

Ohm certainly proved visionary with the realisation of the new building. The mediation of art and crafts was factored into the architectural concept from the very beginning. The entire basement level of the museum was fitted and furnished for visitors’ individual creative exploration and practical experience of handicraft.

Looking through the windows you can get an impression of the two workshop spaces. The one on the right side is for ‘messier’ work, including ceramics, printing, painting, and woodwork. The one on the left is for ‘finer’ work, such as workshops on drawing, fashion, and digital media. The level also contains a lecture hall.

All these spaces have one important thing in common. They can stay open beyond regular museum hours and can thus be used independently. This was also part of Ohm’s concept for the new building.

‘She did not want an elitist institution. She always thought about how to make explanations understandable to all members of society, even children. I think the new structure of the museum was conceived in this spirit’. Dr Eva-Maria Hanebutt-Benz recalls, who worked with Ohm at the museum. Annaliese Ohm’s ideas about museum pedagogy were shaped by the notion of an ‘active appropriation’ of the exhibition contents.

‘One’s own active participation—working with and shaping clay, designing patterns and everyday objects, printing one’s own graphic designs, producing jewellery, and anything else possible—is not merely “doing arts and crafts” in an ordinary sense, but these processes produce useful knowledge about various skills and techniques. They give participants insights into the special artistic qualities of exhibited objects’. This is how the department of museum pedagogy is described in a museum guide from 1985.

Create, how the department is called today, works very much in the spirit envisioned by Ohm. ‘Create!’ is intended as a call, an invitation for anyone and everyone to become active themselves. The foundation laid by Annaliese Ohm is still being worked on today.

 

Sources:

Eva-Maria Hanebutt-Benz, ‘Spielen, Werken und Lernen im Museum’, in Museum. Museum für Kunsthandwerk Frankfurt am Main, Frankfurt am Main: Westermann Verlag, 1985, p. 126.

Eva-Maria Hanebutt-Benz, recorded interview conducted at Museum Angewandte Kunst, Frankfurt am Main, August 30, 2021, min. 12:52-13:14.

Annaliese Ohm, application from position as director,1974, employee file, preserved at Institut für Stadtgeschichte Frankfurt am Main, pp. 11–31.

A New Logo for New Visions

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This tree’s leaf, which here the East
In my garden propagates,
On its secret sense we feast
Such as sages elevates.

Is it but one being single
Which as same itself divides?
Are there two which choose to mingle
So that one each other hides?

As the answer to such question
I have found a sense that’s true:
Is it not my songs’ suggestion
That I’m one and also two?

 

Inspired by Goethe’s love poem Ginkgo biloba, the then director of the museum, Dr Annaliese Ohm, designated the gingko leaf as the museum’s logo in 1974. The gingko leaf was chosen as symbol for openness and exchange between eastern and western cultures. Even then, a large part of the museum’s collection encompassed East Asian and European applied arts. With its parted yet joined form, the two-winged gingko leaf embodies Ohm’s vision of transforming the museum into an international and intercultural institution, a place that brings cultures together without depriving each of their unique character.

Goethe wrote his poem 1815 after a visit in Frankfurt. It is said that he collected two gingko leaves from today’s site of Museum Angewandte Kunst and used them as inspiration for his poem. Ginkgos originate from China and for this reason they were very unusual in Goethe’s time. So how did they come to this place? Johann Peter Salzwedel, the original owner of Historic Villa Metzler and its surrounding park, planted them. Ginkgo trees still stand on the property today.

The intension behind the symbolic power of the ginkgo harmonises with Annaliese Ohm’s progressive vision for her era: to open the museum up, enable a dialogue among visitors, break down barriers, and create a place of home in the museum.

 

Sources:

Margrit Bauer and Joachim Schwarzkopf (eds.), Museum für Kunsthandwerk Frankfurt am Main, Frankfurt am Main, 1987, p. 8.

Hendrik Birus and Anne Bohnenkamp (eds.), ‘“Denn das Leben ist die Liebe….“. Marianne von Willemer und Goethe im Spiegel des West-östlichen Divans‘, exhibition catalogue Freies Deutsches Hochstift – Frankfurter Goethe-Museum, Frankfurt am Main: Freies Deutsches Hochstift – Frankfurter Goethe-Museum 2014, pp. 164 and 166.

Museum Angewandte Kunst (2021), Vom Salzwedel’schen Garten zum Metzlerpark, available at https://www.museumangewandtekunst.de/de/museum/historische-villa-metzler/metzlerpark/ (accessed: September 22, 2021).

Richard von Weizsäcker, ‘Rede zur Eröffnung des Museums für Kunsthandwerk in Frankfurt’, manuscript, April 25, 1985, pp. 10–15.

Who was Annaliese Ohm?

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‘Factual through and through / absolutely approachable / flexible / warm / she knew what she wanted and she got what she wanted / progressive / very consistent / you felt valued / not afraid of male luminaries / very structured thinking / she was very well connected / she was very committed / she was an intelligent, art-loving, energetic woman / very caring, very family-conscious / she gave us wings / assertive / with a great love and a close relationship to things / who listened but at the same time had a very firm opinion / I already found her progressive / always in a good mood / perceived as a conservative person / she was really a personality that you don't really forget that easily’

You are now standing in front of the restoration workshops, the museum’s archive, and the wood shop. Until 1985, this is where the museum’s offices and administration were housed, since at the time the museum only consisted of Historical Villa Metzler and the buildings you see here.

Born 1920 in Schlawe (Sławno in today’s Poland), Annaliese Ohm discovered her passion for art early on, and especially for applied art. In 1940, she began studying art history and archaeology, receiving her doctorate in 1951. She financed her studies by weaving straw into everyday objects and selling them. Her niece described Ohm as clever and imaginative. Many years followed in which she gained professional experience, working in a ministry of culture, in historical preservation, and a regional museum authority in Nordrhein-Westfalen. The tours and courses that she gave for schoolchildren, students, and interested people demonstrated early on how much enthusiasm she brought to the mediation of art and culture. Her educational trips to countries such as Sweden, England, Italy, Greece and Egypt and what was then Czechoslovakia (today the Czech Republic, the Slovak Republic, and parts of the Ukraine) made clear to Ohm, as she said in her own words: ‘how much help and consolation art offers’.

In 1964, Annaliese Ohm started working at Museum für Kunsthandwerk as the only scientific staff other than the then director. Two years later, she was appointed head of the department and curator for European applied arts. In 1974, she took on the position as the first female director of the museum. In the 1970s, men headed all the renowned museums in Frankfurt, except for Museum für Kunsthandwerk! Ivonne Rochau-Balinge, who later worked together with Ohm in the International Women’s Club of Frankfurt e. V., recalls:

‘In the 1970s and 1980s it really was unusual for a woman to lead a museum. But she had what it takes, with her assertiveness and her persistence. She also had a talent of being able to win people over with a certain charm. But she could also be really tough. You had to be, to stand your ground’.

When Ohm assumed her role as director, the museum had only a small staff. Gradually she managed to create the positions that were so desperately needed; in museum education, in the carpentry shop, restoration, and curation. Now she could carry out her vision for a professional reorganization of the museum on a level in keeping with its large collection.

Annaliese Ohm was particularly supportive of female museum staff, as her former colleague Dr. Eva-Maria Hanebutt-Benz remembers:

‘For example, she made it possible for me to travel through the US on a Fullbright scholarship, a four-week trip through American museums with a group of colleagues from Europe, and I was able to see all that, hear lectures, etc. That someone would make that possible for a younger colleague, a subordinate employee— This is where her very strong human interest gleamed through’.

Ohm’s progressive museum policy was also expressed in the way she filled leading positions in scholarly and academic fields, including art education, almost exclusively with women. She trained her staff to work independently and confidently and to contribute on their own.

Was her mentorship consciously focused on women, perhaps as a feminist approach? Even if we cannot answer this in retrospect, one thing is clear: Ohm wanted to enable women with families to have a career, something that is still not a given everywhere! She was attentive to women’s needs and was active in the International Women’s Club of Frankfurt e. V., holding the office of its president from 1988 to 1989.

Her courage, strength, and perseverance were rooted in her ‘often desperate search for home’ as she said herself. Ohm’s existential need to create a home for herself through art and culture possibly can be explained by her flight from Kolberg (Kołobrzeg in today’s Poland) in 1945. She understood that the museum could be just such a place—independent of its geographic location—a home for people.

In 1987, shortly after her retirement, Annaliese Ohm was awarded the Cross of Merit, First Class, of the Federal Republic of Germany for her outstanding achievement for contemporary applied arts and the realization of the new building. After over forty years of success in the art and culture scene, she entered a retirement home in Lübeck in 2000, where she died three years later.

Dr Sabine Runde describes the lasting influence of Annaliese Ohm’s period as museum director: ‘When you are encouraged, you learn a lot. This positive attitude alone brings you further. It helps you to have the courage to make decisions and to have confidence. Not only in yourself, but also in others’.

 

Sources:

Familie Bartels, obituary, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, March 5, 2003.

Margrit Bauer,recorded interview conducted at Museum Angewandte Kunst, Frankfurt am Main, September 1, 2021, from min. 26:52, from min. 26:58, from min. 27:00, from min. 27:02, from min. 27:16.

Roland Burgard, Museum für Kunsthandwerk Frankfurt am Main, Frankfurt am Main: Museum für Kunsthandwerk, 1988, p. 28.

Inge Burggraf,recorded interview conducted at Museum Angewandte Kunst, Frankfurt am Main, August 30, 2021, from min. 07:21, from 07:40.

H. D., ‘Zu wenig Platz für viele Schätze. CDU-Politiker informieren sich im Kunsthandwerksmuseum’, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, no. 48, March 1, 1978.

W. E., ‘Frankfurt Gesichter. Annaliese Ohm’, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, December 11, 1982.

A. G.,‘Die Sammlungen fürs Publikum. Dr. Annaliese Ohm wird neue Direktorin des Kunsthandwerkmuseums,’ Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, no. 119, May 24, 1974, p. 52.

Antje and Johannes Hachmöller,recorded interview conducted at Museum Angewandte Kunst, Frankfurt am Main, September 22, 2021, from min. 08:50, from min. 08:56.

Eva-Maria Hanebutt-Benz,recorded interview conducted at Museum Angewandte Kunst, Frankfurt am Main, August 30, 2021, from min. 01:40, from min. 01:45, from min. 05:30, from min. 20:00, from min. 20:06, from min. 25:16, min. 25:30–25:35, min. 25:40–26:12, from min. 28:04, from min. 28:19, from min. 28:30, from min. 28:36, from min. 29:57, from min. 30:10.

International Women's Club Frankfurt e. V., obituary, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, March 2003.

Annaliese Ohm, farewell address, manuscript, May 20, 1987, p. 2.

Annaliese Ohm, curriculum vitae, Museum Archive.

Annaliese Ohm, curriculum vitae, employee file, preserved at Institut für Stadtgeschichte Frankfurt am Main, 1964.

Press and Communications Office of the City of Frankfurt,‘Bundesverdienstkreuz für Dr. Annaliese Ohm. Bürgermeister Dr. Hans-Jürgen Moog überreicht den Orden’, press release, November 11, 1987.

Press and Communications Office of the City of Frankfurt,‘Große Verdienste um das Deutsche Kunsthandwerk. Zum Abschied der Museumsdirektorin Dr. Annaliese Ohm’, press release, May 18, 1987.

Ivonne Rochau-Balinge,recorded interview conducted at Museum Angewandte Kunst, Frankfurt am Main, August 30, 2021, from min. 00:44, from min. 01:08, from min. 01:13, from min. 37:40, from min. 41:31.

Sabine Runde, conversation at Museum Angewandte Kunst, Frankfurt am Main, July 14, 2021.

Sabine Runde,recorded interview conducted at Museum Angewandte Kunst, Frankfurt am Main, August 30, 2021, from min. 25:20, from min. 35:00.

Epilogue


Audio text

This tour is not a way of tracking down the past or adding more diverse layers, including the stories of women, to the museum’s history.

This is about questioning history and its potential fluidity. It is also about writing history differently, without leaving women and other genders out. Because whether someone makes history does not depend on gender.

What we perceive to be historically established facts and events of the past are always the reconstructions of Historiography. And Historiography is subjective. In this sense, history is a dialectic, dynamic, and never-ending process, which is simultaneously a commentary on the present—that reaches into the future.

We have continued to write the history of Museum Angewandte Kunst, and now understand Dr Ohm’s achievements. We know that the museum would not exist as it does today, if it were not for her.

You can write history in a different way by looking at your own personal history and considering which individual or chapter may have been forgotten. You can write history, by always asking which people may have been forgotten at the places you visit. Look for the gaps.

Please join us again for another Angewandte Walk.

 

Sources:

Susanne Maurer: ‘“Gedächtnis der Konflikte”? Reflexion einer historigraphiepolitischen Denkfigur,’ in Geschichtspolitik und Soziale Arbeit, edited by J. Richter, Wiesbaden: Springer Fachmedien, 2017, pp. 11–30.

‘scan & start’: How It Works  

You have landed at this web app either by scanning a QR code found at one of our info sites or audio stations, or you have arrived here via the museums homepage.

To get you started with the tour, below are the most important app functions:

Please use headphones when listening to the audio segments, particularly when inside the museum building, to avoid disturbing other visitors.

What kind of a tour is this?

This audio tour tells of the lasting impact made by Dr Annaliese Ohm, the former director of today’s Museum Angewandte Kunst. At the time, the museum was still called the Museum für Kunsthandwerk, and Annaliese Ohm was the first, and until now only, woman to serve as director of the museum. She laid the foundation for many important subsequent developments.

Little was known about Annaliese Ohm, both in the museum and outside. The aim of the tour is to review her achievements and actively work to ensure that impactful women are remembered in history.

Eight audio stations highlight different themes. These are accompanied by a Prologue and an Epilogue, which are only found in the app and are not linked to any specific station. They mark the beginning and the end of the tour.

Five stations are located on the grounds of Museum Angewandte Kunst—signs bearing icons and QR codes mark these. Three stations are located within the museum. To experience them on site, a museum ticket is required.

The blue flags locate the stations on the map, while the icons on the flags provide clues to the content of the audio segments. The stations can be visited in any order; turning on your GPS location enables the navigation function on site. The tour also functions without GPS, and you can listen to the audio files anywhere. 

The info point with an overview map showing where the individual stations are located is in the inner courtyard of the museum. On the map, it is marked with an i.

 

We kindly ask you to use headphones.

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The design and layout of this app as well as all included texts, images, and other media (in particular audio recordings) are copyright protected. No part of this publication may be reproduced in any form nor may it be altered, copied, or distributed through the use of electronic systems.


Responsible for the Content

Prof. Matthias Wagner K
Museum Angewandte Kunst
Schaumainkai 17
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+ 49 69 212 31286 / 38857

info.angewandte-kunst@stadt-frankfurt.de


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Infopoint

Here you can find all the information about the tour on site. To find this in the app, click here.