Collecting Central Europe  
  The History of Collecting of Central and Eastern Europe  

Wildpferd aus der Vogelherdhöhle, 40 000 Jahre alt (c) Museum der Universität Tübingen MUT

Programme 2021


23 November 2021

University Collections Workshop: 

Urszula Bończuk-Dawidziuk (Museum of the University of Wrocław), Fabienne Huguenin (The Museum of the University of Tübingen MUT), Sofia Talas (Museum of the History of Physics at the University of Padua)

Three ten-minute presentations followed by discussion

Urszula Bończuk-Dawidziuk

Between Science and Education. Historical Collections at the University on the Example of the University of Wrocław

Collecting at universities has been practiced from the start. Universities needed research and teaching facilities and collected objects that were useful during lectures and classes with students. Today's universities own historical, scientific and didactic collections that reflect the history of the university, its structural and material transformations. This is also the case with the University of Wrocław, which takes care of its historical collections. The exception of the University of Wrocław, however, is that in 1945 it changed its nationality (from German to Polish). Its collections have largely been dispersed, partly also destroyed. Research in this extremely interesting cultural heritage shows that over the centuries, an attempt to balance the scholarly interests of professors managing collections with teaching at the university is evident in university collections.

Urszula Bończuk-Dawidziuk is an art historian and museologist. She studied in Wrocław, Frankfurt (Oder) and Warsaw. She held several important scholarships and is the author and co-author of books and numerous scientific articles. Urszula is a member of the Polish Association of Art Historians, the Association of University Museums in Poland, the Association of Polish Museologists, and the Silesian Historical Commission in Germany. Her research interests focus on the history of art and culture around 1800 and the history of museology in Wrocław.

Fabienne Huguenin

The Museum of the University of Tübingen MUT

The Museum of the University of Tübingen MUT was founded as a central facility of the University of Tübingen in 2006. It functions as an umbrella institution for the approximately 70 university collections. Some of the tasks of the MUT are to organise the scientific collections responsibly, to preserve them for future generations and to make them usable for research, teaching, public education and profiling of the university. The determination of the origin of objects and human remains as well as the evidence of possible contexts of injustice has also been recognised as an important research desideratum. Some examples illustrate the challenges we face.

Fabienne Huguenin studied Art History, Classical Archaeology and Romance Languages in Tübingen and Djon. After completing her doctorate in Art History in 2011, she worked on several digitisation projects at the Deutsches Museum in Munich, most recently as team leader in the project „Deutsches Museum Digital“ for the scientific indexing of the holdings of the object collection, the archive and the library. She was also responsible for acquiring third-party funding in the field of provenance research at the Research Institute for the History of Science and Technology. Her second book, an inventory catalogue of the portrait painting collection of the Deutsches Museum in Munich, received the publication prize of the museum. Since August 2020, Fabienne Huguenin has been a research associate at the Museum of the University of Tübingen MUT. Her areas of focus include collection and provenance research as well as third-party funding acquisition.

Sofia Talas

The new History of Physics Museum in Padua - Exploring the Potentialities of a University Physics Collection

The Museum of the History of Physics holds thousands of scientific instruments that were used for physics research and teaching in Padua from the 18 th century onwards. It was founded in 1995. We have just developed a project to renovate the Museum, with the aim of shedding new light on the potentialities of Padua university physics collection. 

The paper will discuss some of the main peculiarities of the new display, which actually brings the public into Padua's Cabinet of Physics to show how physics was taught and studied in Padua from the 18th century onwards. We will see how connections with the global developments of physics, as well as links with other disciplines, such as art and architecture, emerge from Padua collection of scientific instruments. Stories of successes and failures come to light, often connected to the political, social and economic context, and we will see how instruments themselves offer food for thought on current issues in science and society.

Sofia Talas is curator of the Museum of the History of Physics at the University of Padua. Her research focuses on scientific instruments, their history and interpretation. From 2011 to 2017, she was President of Universeum, the European network aiming at the preservation and promotion of academic heritage. Sofia is currently a Board member of the History of Physics Group (European Physical Society) and the Scientific Instrument Commission (International Union for the History and Philosophy of Science).


14 December 2021

Julia Rössel (KONDA, Foto Marburg)
Spaces of Collecting: From Physical Matter to Digital Object

Lecture of ca. 40 minutes followed by discussion

Prints were always made to circulate through time and space. When they would join a collection they were extracted from the art marked and, so it seems, they would stop their circulation for a while to stay there. They would be glued in albums or fixed within a mount. Within the collection the physical object is relatively fixed in space within the topological structure of a spacial and virtual classification system. What happens next?

By cataloguing objects in museum databases, by reproducing it via digital photography and by publishing text and image information of the object on the museums website or aggregating databases like Europeana the print is also circulating as a digital object.

The lecture asks which paths a print being part of a Museum’s collection took before and takes within the Museums space. I like to describe this journey as a sequence of transformations and translations that changes the object itself in certain ways.

As example, I will follow the path of a print from the prints and drawings collection of the Herzog Anton Ulrich Museum in Brunswick.

Julia Rössel completed her studies in art history and book studies the Johannes Gutenberg University in Mainz by the with a master's thesis on almanacs from Paris publishers during the reign of Louis XIV. Since 2014, she has been working on her doctorate under Salvatore Pisani at Gutenberg-University Mainz on the topic "Change of Media Systems - Graphic Collections and their Digital Translation". In addition to various study visits to the Statens Museum in Copenhagen, the Kunstistorisches Institut in Florence and the Herzog August Library in Wolfenbüttel, she worked as an art mediator at the Städelmuseum Frankfurt and the Museum Wiesbaden. She has been working as research assistant in the project Kupferstichkabinett Online of the Herzog August Bibliothek Wolfenbüttel. Currently she is project coordinator for an interdisciplinary project in the field of digital humanities at Philipps University Marburg.

Programme 2022

25 January 2022

Baiba Vanaga, Rundāle Palace Museum

Rundāle Palace Museum: The Rebirth of the Ducal Residence

Guided tour to the Rundāle Palace Museum (Latvia)

Recorded guided tour of the museum followed by live q & a session

The Russian court architect Francesco Rastrelli designed Rundāle Palace for the Duke of Courland, Ernst Johann Biron. Although the palace was built between 1736 and 1740, the interior decorations were finished later, between 1765 and 1768. Duke Peter, son of Duke Ernst Johann, can be considered a serious art collector and part of his collection was also kept in Rundāle Palace. In 1795, after the annexion of the Duchy of Courland by the Russian Empire, the last Duke Peter left Courland and took the furnishings of his palaces to his properties abroad. The interior objects and works of art accumulated during the nineteenth century by later owners of Rundāle Palace were moved to St. Petersburg before World War I.

The Rundāle Palace Museum was founded in 1964 as a branch of the Bauska Museum of Regional Studies and Art. In 1972, it became an independent museum. At the time when the museum was established the premises of the palace were completely empty. The accommondation of the museum in the former summer residence of the Dukes of Courland determined to a certain degree the nature of its collections. The palace interior arrangement is aimed at reflecting the former functional role of the rooms, echoing the tastes of the former owners and creating the best possible collection of fine and decorative arts. The tour will focus on the museum’s collecting history.

Baiba Vanaga is an art historian and head of the Art Research Department at the Rundāle Palace Museum. She studied art history and theory at the Art Academy of Latvia and museology at the Latvian Academy of Culture. In 2015, she received her doctorate from the Art Academy of Latvia. Her research interests are women artists, historical collections and the artistic life in Latvia from the late eighteenth century to the middle of the twentieth centuries.

Baiba has published on women artists in Latvia; two essays on historical collections are forthcoming: "The Art Collection of Duke Peter of Courland" (proceedings of the conference For the Eyes and for the Soul: Private Art Collections in Lithuania, organised by the National Museum of Lithuania and the Lithuanian Culture Research Institute; Vilnius) and "Women Artists’ Works in Public Collections in Latvia, 1870–1918’ (Proceedings of the Art Museum of Estonia, issue 11 (16): Women Artists in Baltic and Nordic Museums; Tallinn).

22 February 2022

Amber Collections Workshop:

Ruth Sargent Noyes (National Museum of Denmark), Tomasz Grusiecki (Boise State University), Rachel King (The British Museum, London)

Three ten-minute presentations followed by discussion

Ruth Sargent Noyes

Amber materialities of Sanctity between the seventeenth-century Grand Duchy of Lithuania and Grand Duchy of Florence

My talk explores an exchange of luxury gifts in the 1670s-80s between Tuscan Grand Duke Cosimo III de’ Medici and scions of the Pacowie clan in the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. The Medici-Pacowie gift exchange climaxed in the translatio (ritual relocation) of relics of two early modern saints between Vilnius and Florence: Polish-Lithuanian prince Kazimierz Jagiellonczyk (1458-84) and Florentine nun Maria Maddalena de’ Pazzi (1566–1607). In 1678 a femur bone of Kazimierz journeyed south; in 1683 hair and a tooth of Maria Maddalena traveled north, outfitted with sumptuous reliquary containers. My talk explores how intertwined discursive strands across epistemic fields—including theories of the emotions, hagiography, spiritual exercises, humoral theory, metaphorics and metaphysics of materials, and conceptual geography—converged in the series of reliquaries manufactured in Danzig (Gdańsk) and Florence of amber, ivory, rock crystal, diamonds, and silver to transport, safeguard, and exegete numinous bodily remains. With a particular focus on the discursive materiality of amber, which featured prominently not only in the reliquaries but also across the Medici-Pacowie gift exchange, and constituted an especially sought-after luxury material by the Medici both in its raw natural state and worked by human facture, I explore how the reliquaries’ haptic and thermal material facture not only instantiated a particular mode of sanctity associated with the saints enclosed within, but also indexed the emotional malleability of the pious devotee interacting with the relics, while also reifying period notions regarding cultural differences between southern and north-eastern Europe.

Ruth Sargent Noyes, PhD, is Marie Skłodowska-Curie EU Senior Research Fellow at the National Museum of Denmark (Copenhagen). Her research takes up the intersection of art, religion and science of the Early Modern period in its global context, with special focus on cross-cultural perspectives between Italy and Northern Europe, including Germany, the Low Countries, and the Nordic-Baltic region. A 2014 Fellow of the American Academy in Rome, Dr. Noyes currently leads a Marie Skłodowska-Curie EU Project, The art of (re)moving relics and reforming holiness in Europe’s borderlands (TRANSLATIO), from which her talk is taken.

Tomasz Grusiecki

A Material to Think With: Prussian Carved Ambers, Self-Reflexivity, and a New Geography of Art

There is no material linked more closely to early modern Prussia than amber, and both the Hohenzollerns (rulers of Brandenburg-Prussia) and the Vasas (overlords of Royal Prussia) used it extensively as diplomatic gifts, linking this prized material to their territories. Amber was also one of the most enigmatic materials of the period, with its alchemical nature often examined by natural philosophers who sought to determine its origins and physical makeup. Prussian artisans participated in these explorations by foregrounding amber’s metamorphic qualities. Many amber artefacts carved in Königsberg and Danzig self-reflectively depict the transformation of the Heliades (the Sun’s daughters) into poplar trees, an Ovidian trope important for the understanding of amber as a material that was once something else. This article explores how the physical properties of cups, caskets, and altarpieces carved in amber had consequences for how these objects were used and activated as a vehicle of elite sociability. By tapping into natural philosophy treatises, descriptions of places, gift records, and poetry, it proposes that amber’s material rhetoric was twofold: (first) to frame the geographically peripheral Prussia as a centre of cultural activity and material exploration; and (second) to simultaneously encourage the perception of amber-made artefacts as multivalent media capable of evoking multiple geographic locations, thus delving into transcultural implications of amber, a Prussian material that simultaneously publicized and obfuscated its origins.

Tomasz Grusiecki is Assistant Professor of Art History at Boise State University. He specialises in the study of visual and material culture in Poland-Lithuania, 1500-1700, focusing on early modern nationalism, cultural entanglement, and perceptions of selfhood and alterity. He is currently revising his first book, Transcultural Things and the Invention of Tradition in Early Modern Poland-Lithuania, contracted to Manchester University Press.

Rachel King

Making under the Microscope: Signed Ambers and the Stories they Tell

Although many early-modern objects made from Baltic amber – a fossilised resin extruded some 40 million years ago – survive today, they represent a fraction of what once was.

A small number of amber artisans were feted internationally in their own lifetimes. Celebrated craftspeople like Christoph Maucher or Christian Porschinen are not known to have signed their pieces, although pieces by and attributed to them exist. Conversely, a small number of signed works do survive. These are particularly significant, not least because they attest to the names of a small number of artisans.

This contribution will engage with works signed by and linked to craftsperson Jacob Heise, seeing these objects as a portal to a career about which absolutely nothing is known for the records of the Königsberg guild records are no longer extant. How can approaches developed by historians of material culture help us understand who Heise was, where, how and when he trained and worked, who he worked with, and the routes he took to market?

This contribution explores the ways in which engaging closely with surviving objects can raise and answer questions, as well as enrich and be enriched by recent work on the cultural, natural and material history of amber in the early-modern era.

Rachel King, PhD is Curator of Renaissance Europe and the Waddesdon Bequest at the British Museum, London. She has previously held curatorial positions at The Burrell Collection, National Museums Scotland, and the Bavarian State Museums and Galleries. Her articles on early-modern amber in Italy and elsewhere have been important in garnering greater scholarly attention for the history of European interest in this material. Rachel’s book Amber. Nature and Culture, a global history of amber, is forthcoming with Reaktion Books.

22 March 2022

Štěpán Vácha (Institute of Art History of the Czech Academy of Sciences, Prague): Emperor Rudolf II’s Painting Collection Revisited: New Ideas and Perspectives

Lecture of ca. 40 minutes followed by discussion

Rudolf’s art collections represent an extensive field of research. The current debate oscillates between the idea of a private museum (Studiensammlung) for the use of the Emperor and his court members, including artists, and a public collection conceived in the form of repraesentatio. Attention has been devoted more to the kunstkammer than to the paintings collection (picture gallery), which has only been the subject of sporadic studies and a considerable amount of references about individual artworks owned by the emperor. Shortly after Rudolf's death, the collection was scattered, and there is no detailed documentation of its original extent and composition. The use of new computation methods, as well as new research results, lead to new, never-before-asked questions. The lecture offers a complex overview of Rudolf's picture collection, i.e. its location within the imperial residence, its spatial arrangement, the variety of themes and authors. Therefore Rudolf II's paintings gallery can find its appropriate place in the European history of paintings collections around 1600, when the epochal shift from the kunstkammer to the princely galleries occurred.
Štěpán Vácha, PhD, is a research scholar at the Institute of Art History of the Czech Academy of Sciences and editor-in-chief of the journal Studia Rudolphina. His primary research interest concern Baroque painting in Bohemia and the works of art gathered at Rudolf II's court. He also teaches art history at the Academy of Fine Arts in Prague. In 2020, he became principal investigator of the team research project 'Art for Display: The painting collection of Emperor Rudolf II within the context of collecting practices ca. 1600'. (

26 April 2022

Veronica Sandbichler, Ambras Castle, Innsbruck, Austria

Guided tour to the Museum of Castle Ambras

Recorded guided tour of the museum followed by live q & a session

Tour of the museum

May 2022


21 June 2022

Barbara Murovec (Visiting Scholar at the Kunsthistorisches Institut in Florenz):  

German, Italian and Slovenian National Heritage – Considered through Collecting of Cultural Objects in 1941/1942 and 1945/1946

Lecture of ca. 40 minutes followed by discussion

The lecture will analyse Slovenian examples of cultural heritage to show the characteristics of dealing with them during and immediately after the Second World War, as well as the practices of collecting and musealisation of objects in the Alpe Adria region. It will address the issue of institutional art history still being trapped in exclusive national narratives and its resulting applications.

How did the search for “national heritage” proceed in the first years of the Second World War and during the time immediately after the war on the territory of present-day Slovenia? Who inventoried cultural objects and for whom? How were new museums and collections created, on what (legal) basis and with “whose” objects? What were the reasons for the transfer of cultural objects? What was safe-guarded, restored, newly acquired or shown in exhibitions during the first years of German and Italian occupation? And how did these processes and phenomena continue, develop or change after the end of the war in Yugoslavia? How was and is national identity of cultural objects determined, and how might art historians think (differently) about their role and the meaning of identity in the context of the history of the discipline and the mission of institutions in the twenty-first century?

Barbara Murovec, Visiting Scholar at the Kunsthistorisches Institut in Florenz – Max-Planck-Institut, studied art history and comparative literature in Ljubljana, Munich, Vienna and Graz. She obtained her PhD in Ljubljana in 2000 and her habilitation in Maribor in 2009, where she taught from 2010 to 2019. From 2005 to 2018, she was director of the France Stele Institute for Art History of the Research Centre of the Slovenian Academy of Sciences and Arts and, from 2010 to 2016, she served as Secretary and Second Vice-President of RIHA (International Association of Research Institutes in the History of Art). Most recently Barbara was a guest scholar at the Getty Research Institute in Los Angeles and at the Zentralinstitut für Kunstgeschichte in Munich. She coordinated several national and international projects; the monograph of the EU HERA project (2016 to 2020) Transfer of Cultural Objects in the Alpe Adria Region in the 20th Century (TransCultAA) will be published by Böhlau in autumn 2021 (ed. together with Christian Fuhrmeister).

26 July 2022

Paul Schuster, Eggenberg Castle, Graz, Austria

Guided tour to the Museum of Eggenberg Castle

Recorded guided tour of the museum followed by live q & a session

Tour of the museum