Anlässlich eines Jubiläums wie dem 100. Geburtstag der Goethe-Universität Frankfurt in 2014 finden viele Veranstaltungen statt und werden zahlreiche Ausstellungen gezeigt, die sich mit der Geschichte – oder einem historischen Aspekt – der jeweiligen Institution auseinandersetzen. Eine ganz besondere Präsentation der (hundertjähigen) Geschichte der Goethe-Universität findet man in der Ausstellung HUNDERT – Die Goethe-Universität in 100 Dingen, die seit dem 10. Juli 2014 im Foyer des IG Farbenhauses auf dem Campus Westend zu sehen ist. Das Universitätarchiv Frankfurt vollzieht in 100 Exponaten 100 Jahre wechselvolle Universitätsgeschichte nach. Aus den Schatzkammern sind Dinge hervorgeholt worden, deren „wahre Beschaffenheit…. den Menschen oft verborgen bleibt“, so schreibt der Kurator und Leiter des Universitätsarchivs Dr. Maaser in seinem Vorwort zum Ausstellungskatalog. So werden nicht nur 100 Dinge der Öffentlichkeit präsentiert, sondern endlich kommen auch ihre jeweiligen „Geschichten“ ans Tageslicht. Dinge, die sonst ihr Dasein versteckt in den Archivboxen des Universitätskellers fristen, erwecken in futuristisch aussehenden Vitrinen, die an Science-Fiction-Zeitkapseln erinnern, universitäre Geschichtsschreibung zum Leben. Getreu dem Motto Goethes „Die Geschichte denkt uns vor“, erzählen die 100 Dinge nun 100 Ausstellungstage lang – bis zum 18. Oktober 2014, dem eigentlichen Geburtstag der Goethe-Universität – ihre ganz „eigene“ Version der 100 Jahre 1914 bis 2014.


Ein großes Dankeschön an Jörg für Video + Licht, an Lars für Fotos + Design, an Michael für Besprechung + Idee… und an alle drei für das „Wiederauflebenlassen“!

Made by: Jörg Obenauer /, Titelbild: Lars Contzen

Fotoreihe zu HUNDERT von Lars Contzen: Lars Contzen Designstudio

Besprechung auf


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Eine wissenschaftliche Analyse der Ausstellung habe ich mit dem Vortrag „Another exhibition of history or an other exhibition of history“bei der Tagung „Positioning Academic Heritage. Challenges for Universities, museums and society in the 21st century“ zu Herausforderungen an Universitätsmuseen, -sammlungen und -archive im November 2013 in Ghent/Belgien versucht. Die Ausstellung spielt wie oben bereits angedeutet eine besondere Rolle für das Jubiläum der Goethe-Universität und setzt zudem einen besonderen Zugang zur „Dinggeschichte“. Dies ist zum einen in ihrer ganz „anderen“ Wahrnehmung von Zeit, Geschichte und Chronologie sowie zum anderen in der futuristischen Entrücktheit ihrer Gestaltung begründet. Alles Weitere im Folgenden in der Präsentation und in der Zusammenfassung des Vortrags in englischer Sprache:



HISTORY: Goethe University – a relatively short history of 100 years

  • Goethe University Frankfurt, positioned among the top international research universities, situated in Frankfurt, Germany’s most cosmopolitan and international city
  • It is an university with nearly 44.000 students is named after Johann Wolfgang Goethe, the Frankfurt-born polymath
  • Renowned for his exceptional contributions to literature, science, and philosophy.
  • The university with its short 100 years had – as shown – a very special and turbulent history
  • but always with a clear forward momentum, which I will quick summarize for those who don´t know
  • 1914
    • Goethe University was founded on the eve of First World War in 1914
    • as a unique “citizens’ university,” financed by mainly Jewish citizens- which means private sources and patronage from foundations.
    • It was inspired by the legacy of the European Enlightenment
    • Goethe University stands out as a pioneering “citizens’ university”
    • and the history of the university is one of openness and public participation.
    • Once considered a liberal institution, Goethe University is perhaps best known as the birthplace of the influential Frankfurt School, which spawned some of Europe’s leading thinkers of the 20thcentury (including, for example, Theodor Adorno, Max Horkheimer, Jürgen Habermas, Herbert Marcuse, Martin Buber, and Paul Tillich).
  •  1933
    • Because of racial and political tensions during the Nazi era, the expulsion of Jewish thinkers during this time,
    • close to one-third of the university’s academic staff and uncountable amount if students were dismissed during this period
    • more than at any other German university.
    • AND post 1945 the miracle of re-opening its doors, the return from exile of many great minds, e.g. Max Horkheimer
  • 1968
    • Goethe University also played a major role in the student protests/unrest of 1968
    • that led to widespread educational reforms in Germany and across Europe.
  • 2008ff.
    • In 2008, the university was the first major university in Germany to become a foundation university,
    • meaning that the state of Hessen would still provide funding to cover most of the annual budget
    • BUT the university would be able to establish a private endowment
    • AND enjoy full administrative autonomy in matters such as faculty
    • This is an important re-affirmation of the university’s identity as a “citizens’ university”.
    • And since the beginning of 2000 a true campus environment in Frankfurt with three distinct locations was created:
    • Campus Westend for the humanities and social sciences
    • Campus Riedberg for natural sciences
    • AND Campus Niederrad for medicine.
    • Today, Goethe University is one of the only universities in Germany that enjoys significant public funding alongside administrative autonomy AND the ability to create a private endowment.
  • 2014
    • In 2014 the Goethe University will celebrate its 100th anniversary with „Science for Society“ as its guiding principle
    • there is one special goal for the 2014 jubilee:
    • the Goethe University will strengthen the interplay between science and public.
    • Therefore the different anniversary exhibitions will highlight the Goethe University´s outstanding archives and collections, which contain exciting historical gems of cultural and academic significance.
    • One of these exhibitions called „HUNDERT“ (which means “hundred” in English) “Goethe University in 100 objects”
    • This exhibition should prove HOW the Goethe University tries to succeed in implementing visionary concepts

UNIVERSITY ARCHIVE – Memory and treasure trove of Goethe University

  • The exhibition “HUNDERT” has will be curated from the head of the Goethe University Archives, Dr. Michael Maaser.
  • Before I come to the idea of the exhibition I would like to say something about the self-conception of our Archiv
  • The University Archive is the memory and treasure trove of Goethe University (sehr wohl!)
  • The holdings consist of administrative and academic records that are of continuing administrative, legal, or historical value.
  • it also represents a treasure trove of the University.
  • The Archive preserve not only the University’s charter and other legal documents
  • BUT also medals, seals, important manuscripts, objects of art (from Ernst Wilhelm Nay or Hans Poelzig), designed furniture and crafts (from the famous architect Ferdinand Kramer), and a collection of university gowns among other things as well.
  • In 2002 an official University Archives was established as an independent department with an Archives policy.
  • Today the Archives has a staff of 3 officials, 5 students, 1 secretary and volunteers who are in charge of scientific projects.
  • It is currently preparing in cooperation with all other Hessian universities and the public record office an encyclopedia about teachers at the universities which should be printed and put on the net.
  • Photographs related to the University’s employees, institutions and events are to be stored in a specific data bank.
  • The Archives makes records available to a variety of users. It permits convenient access to researchers, officers of the University and the general public.
  • About 10.000 people visit its webpage per month, the archive has 1000 requests and 800 visitors – students, scientists, historians etc. – per anno

The Exhibition


  • The intention of the exhibition “HUNDERT” which in fact will present 100 objects to show the history of the University in its 100 years of existence
  • is not another chronological exhibition of the centenary of the university BUT realize an other form of presentation:
  • AND to comprehend history and historical exhibitions differently
  • It will show the past in its interplay with the present
  • AND its mutual effect to the future
  • The idea of timelessness in the flow of history
  • The device/motto of the exhibition is a quotation of Goethe (which I quote in German and then summarize in english)
  • Goethe: Die Geschichte denkt uns vor“, in english: History is pre-thinking us= contemporary society
  • This conception of history as the quote tells us and other references to the universal genius Goethe are in focus of the exhibition
  • AND is will also highlight the sustainable impact of the Goethe University in the city and society.
  • That’s why the idea of a touring exhibition is so important to the curators
  • It has different stations: The exhibition will open on 10th of July next year at the so called Campus Westend (where most of the events of the anniversary will take place)
  • In the month of October the exhibition will in part move to the Paulskirche, which is a national monument and was the place where the first freely elected body of Germany had its place after 1848
  • The exhibition will then be stationed there at the day of the “real” birthday which will be celebrated at the 18th of October 2014 in the Paulskirche.

b. Sample

  • It is also important to show the sample of the 100 artifacts or better the collective
  • Orvar Löfgren in „Scenes from a Trobled Marriage. Swedish Ethnology and Material Culture Studies“ writes:
  • „small seemingly trivial and valueless things“ are chosen for the exhibition
  • Reference objects for the university and for the last 100 years
  • Important for the choice was also the „object story“ or the story behind the object
  • For example
  • Wahlverwandtschaft = Elective affinities: 1914 the first president of the Goethe university Richard Wachsmuth was deployed from the Prussian government. BUT from this time on the president was elected in secret ballot by the professors in this ballot/voting box. Which by the way was founded by Wahsmuth himself
  • Baustelle = Building lot: At the 112th anniversary of Goethe´s death (22. March 1944) his birthplace burned down after a bombing of Frankfurt. This stone (Corbicula chalk) remains from Goethe´s birthplace (Großer Hirschgraben 23) and to quote the director of the Goethemuseum these days: “It feels as if Goethe now really died.
  • Rüstzeug = Armamentarium: In the postwar years Barbara Walther, a young student, shutteled every day from Wiesbaden to the University in Frankfurt. Her equipement was two pencils, two tickets and little ink pot. Unfortunately there was no writing paper available in winter semester 1949/1950
  • The titles are words or quotations, which also bear relation to Goethe, to his books or scientific studies etc.
  • As you see the exhibition always links back to Goethe (also on the textual level) and the covered history behind the objects
  • As shown most of the things came from everyday life
  • that’s why I would like to call them 100 wild things
  • „Wild things“  is a definition from Judy Attfield who defines everyday objects or commodity items as wild things in contrast to objects or artifacts collected in a museum
  • So the 100 everyday but sometimes odd/strange objects are in a first step wild things (also in the presentation)
  • But in a second step AFTER the exhibition when they are inventoried in the archives collection they become what are artifacts or museum´s objects in Judy Attfilds definition.

c. Presentation and Design

  • BESIDE the biography of the objects
  • It is very important for the context of the exhibition
  • How the 100 things are presented, the constellation in space, the wild or chaotic arrangement
  • There will be no chronology, sequence or order in the displays
  • Which emphasizes the lost in space and time-effect
  • This idea also takes influence in the exhibition design
  • The idea of a timelessness and the famous „Beam-me-up-effect“ will be shown in the design of HUNDERT
  • The showcases will function as a kind of time capsules free from time and space
  • The exhibits will be presented in special ways to the idea of the time capsule
  • The objects will be presented at eye level with the beholder, in a white space, sacralized, mystified and seemingly levitated, taken out of a historical chronology
  • This leads in a Re-Auratization of the objects and the emphasis of the object itself
  • the presentation serves in the truest sense as a time capsule
  • The showcase takes the artifact/the historical object in the future or a future
  • Like the idea of Noah´s Ark: The displays as an ark to save the objects and take them and all the sense of them in a future society
  • So that the experience of the visitors of today are to emphasize history, to learn something about today, and to have a glance at the future


  • The idea of the exhibition is maybe not new for those who work in an museum or especially in an museum of cultural history
  • but it is something very progressive for the context of an university which normally hasn´t its own museum or any other place of commemorative culture
  • That´s why it is a logic consequence that the Archive as the memory and treasure trove be the collection on which the exhibition is based
  • The 100 objects are like any other objects/“things“ are one the one hand signs of history and time
  • BUT on the other hand especially with this form of presentation and the idea of taking them out of time
  • OR their time
  • the exhibition shows not another chronological exhibition BUT an other form of historical exhibition AND an other idea of material culture
  • The „artifact“ – or should I say formerly ordinary objects of the university context like a pen – are now timeless and provided with an aura
  • They are re-auratized to enforce their associative character
  • AND displaced of their primarily sense
  • BUT in a second step their materiality has been highlighted
  • In collaboration with the public sphere HUNDERT with its 100 objects will be on the one hand academic objects and scientific heritage but on the other hand they are also stubborn and dynamic signs of a young university and so they will write an other cultural and social history of the Goethe University!

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