Sunday, May 4, 2014

Pomeranian State Museum: Greifswald

By: Anna Mareike Schonle
(reprinted here with permission)

On the Pomeranian coastline of the Baltic Sea you can find the university town and Hanseatic city of Greifswald. It is located between the islands of Rügen and Usedom. Greifswald is a beautiful town with many well-restored, pretty old buildings and medieval cobblestone streets. Its historic harbor with old fishing boats lies sheltered some miles away from the open sea. Visitors to Greifswald find the State Museum of Pomerania very close to the pretty market square.

After the fall of the Berlin Wall and the German reunification, the University of Greifswald and the City Council showed great commitment to the vision of establishing a new State Museum on the Baltic coast. Both institutions actively supported the project, and the German Government and the Federal State of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania also provided funding for the project. Everybody was aware that a Pomeranian State Museum was only feasible in cooperation with Poland and Sweden. This is due to the eventful and close history which connects the three countries. An advisory council with professional representatives from Poland, Sweden and Denmark was established because the museum sees itself not only as an exhibition of Pomeranian history and culture, but also as a forum in the Baltic Sea region for trans-national work, especially for international youth work. The Director of the Museum Dr. Uwe Schröder orga-
nized the setting up of the museum from the very beginning.

The museum is located on the grounds of a former Franciscan Monastery, and the former library, which is the only preserved part of the monastery, is integrated into the museum. Today’s picture gallery used to be the town school, built by Johann Friedrich Quistorp, the teacher of Caspar David Friedrich, one of the great sons of Greifswald. In 2000, the picture gallery opened to the public. The quality of our art collection is shown by the masterpieces of Caspar David Friedrich, which reflect the Nordic landscape. We own seven of his paintings, among them the famous “Eldena Ruins in the Sudeten mountains”.

 We also feature Vincent van Gogh and his “A Lane near Arles”. The painting was purchased by the Pomer-
anian picture gallery of Szczecin in 1911. To protect it against attacks in World War II, it was taken to Kiel
(Schleswig-Holstein) via Coburg (Bavaria), and after the foundation of the State Museum in Greifswald it
came back to Pomerania. For this reason the painting is  today known as the “Pomeranian van Gogh”.

Besides these, there are many paintings from the baroque era, such as works by the famous artist Frans
Hals. The collection also comprises works by Max Liebermann, one of the most famous German impres-
sionists, and works by expressionists like Max Pechstein, who worked in Pomerania.

In our history exhibition, which opened in 2005, we show 14,000 years, starting with natural history. You can follow the journey of amber, 50 million years after its formation. Core samples show fossils one million
years old, mineralized ammonites, seashells or sponges.

You can also find our first “guest” from Sweden, a huge boulder, pushed to Pomerania via the ice. It whispers myths about the “giant stones” to children.

The exhibition also refers to the legend of Vineta: Off the shore of the Pomeranian coast there was supposed
to be a wealthy town. People lived there in luxury and abundance. This annoyed a mermaid so much that she made the town sink to the bottom of the sea. The legend says that on quiet days you can still hear the bells
of Vineta chiming from the bottom of the sea.

Our medieval section shows the installation of the castle of Arkona on the island of Rügen, the original pil-
lars from a Cistercian monastery, the Reformation and medieval lifestyle and the Slavic craftsmanship and the rich culture of the Hanseatic cities.

Walking on through the museum, events follow chronologically. During the Thirty Years’ War the Swedish
King came to the island of Rügen in 1630, and 200 years of Swedish reign in Pomerania started. Therefore a detailed section of the exhibition refers to the Swedish times. The Swedish were able to occupy Pomera-
nia because the last Duke of Pomerania died in 1637.

The University of Greifswald inherited a large tapestry from the Duke’s Family which we are allowed to ex-
hibit. The “Croy Tapestry”, as it is called after the Duke’s sister’s married name, shows the Pomeranian commitment to the Protestant denomination. At the time this represented a very important testimony of Reformation, and today it is one of the major artifacts of Pomeranian culture.

After the Congress of Vienna [1815] Pomerania became Prussian. There is a most detailed miniature mod-
el of the Harbor of Stettin and another of the huge ship Kaiser Wilhelm I., which took many Pomeranians
abroad. Our last exhibition room deals with the life of Pomeranians who emigrated to the USA, Brazil, Aus-
tralia and other countries in the nineteenth century.

Currently, we are working on an exhibition of the twentieth century, which we hope to inaugurate in 2015. In our museum you have the opportunity not only to watch but also to listen and even to touch history. Au-
dio guides are available in German, English, Polish and Swedish. After the tour inside you can visit our monastery garden, with herbs and traditional plants. There are guided garden tours regularly. We try hard to make sure that everybody feels comfortable in the museum.

The whole complex is barrier-free, and we want to give children an adventurous time.

Our educational department is very committed. The staff create many programs for ages four and up. They organize special summer and winter programs, adventures during the holidays and interesting guided tours or
rallies through the exhibition suitable for every age.

Right next to the museum, also inside the medieval abbey walls, is a renowned gourmet restaurant named Le
Croy. Her Majesty Queen Silvia of Sweden dined here when she visited the University of Greifswald on the
occasion of its 550th anniversary in 2006.

 Tickets for the museum are valid all day, so you can take a break during your visit, maybe in the Le Croy or in any other of the restaurants on the market square, which is only a three minutes’ walk.

We look forward to welcoming you in our museum in the center of the beautiful City of Greifswald! For more information about the State Museum of Pomerania or the Promotion Society visit our website at