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The Literature Museum Vienna is a Perfect Combination of Visual and Performing Art

By Shazia Anwer Cheema

Acknowledgment for writers is not a new thing, especially after their deaths. Legendary writers get cherished mainly by preserving their houses and offices and opening them for the general public in the form of museums. However, these literary museums can be boring for those who are not interested in literature or in one particular writer in general.


Museums are a huge source of revenue generation and museology is much more than preservation and presentation in the 21st century. I repeatedly emphasis my understanding of the international museum scene that museology is now a combination of visual and performing art. The art of display with unique ideas of set designing, lighting, and sound has made it more like dramaturgy, to supplement this view I frequently inquire about the museum decorators/curators, and to my amazement, many of them are actually dramaturges or have some sort of link with theatrical art. They design a museum as a theatrical display to maximize esthetical pleasure, resulting in attracting a vast number of audiences. I have seen war museums, art, and even museums of ghosts and legends, Literature Museum Vienna attracted me to understand how writers can be put on display interactively and how a literary museum can become a source of revenue generation.


The Literature Museum of the Austrian National Library presents the history of Austrian literature from the 18th century until today. Johann Nestroy, Arthur Schnitzler, Franz Kafka, Ilse Aichinger, Ingeborg Bachmann, Thomas Bernhard, and Friederike Mayröcker are just some of the important Austrian authors whose writings and works are presented in the Literature Museum of the Austrian National Library using unique original sources and numerous media stations. The permanent exhibition extends over two levels. Special exhibitions are housed on a third level. The ground floor is available for lectures and events. – On a total area of 730 m², the museum exhibits Austrian literature from the end of the 18th century through to the present day.
The Literature Museum is housed in the former k.k. Hofkammerarchiv (Imperial and Royal Hofkammer Archive). The building was constructed in the Year of Revolution 1848 as the archive of the Hofkammer, the central authority of the Habsburg monarchy. Most fitting is the fact that the Austrian dramatist Franz Grillparzer held the office of archive director here until 1856. His office is retained in its original condition and forms an integral part of the Literature Museum.”

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The building has three floors, almost the entire floor is dedicated to Stefan Zweig his life, his traveling, and books are displayed in an interesting manner. His books are displayed interactively also his stories are elaborated with different themes such as Amok and Conqueror of the sea.

The theatre performance of Zwieg’s Novel “Letter from an unknown woman” and his postcolonial perspective is displayed in an engaging way.

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A corner has been established for visitors to pen their feelings. These kinds of ideas engage the visitors and make them part of the story.

Even the windows are being utilized for display in a profound manner.

“Gregor’s eyes then turned to the window, and the overcast weather–he could hear raindrops hitting against the metal window ledge–completely depressed him. “How about going back to sleep for a few minutes and forgetting all this nonsense”—– The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka

The second floor is dedicated to the Napoleon era and for Franz Kafka. The harshness of the era has been displayed in a unique way. Apparently unrelated paintings on walls have hidden windows and after opening the window actual display can be seen.

All the resistance in form of literature and art is hidden inside the secret cabinets, hidden meetings, secret societies all are hidden behind the windows. The expression of “Napoleon’s shadow” has been exploited at its extreme. Hours can be spent here by opening windows and finding voluminous information installed hidden.

Kafka’s personal manuscript and personal collection of documents were (are) a real treat for Kafka lovers. The expressionism philosophy in pictorial arrangement and installation is readily available to understand the expressionism and expressionists of the time.

The detailed displays of Literature response to Nazi terror, the school of literature; pupil and teacher, Theatre and its impact and formation of Avant-Garde are enriching experiences. An entire wall has been dedicated to poetic correspondence, beautiful rotateable wooden plates explaining the writing process of legendry writers are unique and interactive.
Film and theatre adaptation of literary text has been displayed with installation maximizing the inference.

Literature is an anthology of any society, the making, and breaking of societies are hidden in literature and those who prioritize their history as a prime source for analysis of present and formulation of past are always figuring out ways to preserve it and acknowledge it.

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