{Austria} Vienna Crime Museum

May 14, 2012

Austria

In the process of migrating my blog some draft posts seem to have fallen by the wayside, which I have just rediscovered and will be posting over the next few weeks. Here’s a very interesting museum to start with. The ‘Wiener Kriminalmuseum’ (Vienna Crime Museum) is a private museum in Vienna which was recommended to me via Twitter when I was pondering what museums to visit on my trip to Austria last year. Since I love a bit of crime (whether it’s Agatha Christie’s sleuths or Sherlock Holmes, American crime dramas, or so many Scandinavian crime authors that I have lost count), I didn’t need much convincing.

It’s a private museum, located in one of the oldest houses of the Vienna district Leopoldstadt, covering a total of 20 rooms, so you get plenty to see for your €5. It opened 22 years ago and, as the name implies, covers the history of crime in Vienna from the late Middle Ages until present times, as well as the history of the police and justice systems. My guide book describes it as an interesting mix between social history and horror cabinet, and I have to admit I was a little taken aback at some of the rather gruesomely graphic historical crime scene photographs of mutilated corpses on display without warning. If you are of the faint hearted, I recommend you skip the photographs of the museum at the end of this post.

This was not the only problem I had with the museum. The displays are ordered chronologically through time, which results in the content jumping back and forwards between various crimes – from harmless forgeries to brutal murders- and the historical developments of not only the aforementioned police and justice systems, but also in places the rest of Austria, or at least so it seemed. I could not help but think that a thematic approach would have been the better option. The museum also suffers from trying to cover absolutely every single crime of possible significance in great detail, in what is already very text heavy interpretation (I began to realise why they tried to sell us a summary of the texts at the ticket desk, though the summary is also available in English which is useful as the exhibition itself is mainly German), with the focus jumping between culprits and victims. Being more selective may have made the material more accessible.

But, having said that, we need to keep in mind that this is a private museum with absolutely no budget, funded entirely from ticket sales and the rent from leasing out the restaurant on the premises. The design, while a little cluttered and dated, is consistent and the text panels have been lovingly put together, each, by the looks of it, individually stuck together from cut out texts, copies of photographs, and reproduced documents. Painted murals and wooden tableaux highlight important historical scenes, and you can definitely not complain about a lack of in depth information, a criticism that often echoes around more modern museums.

Despite its flaws, I would say this museum is a must for crime fans. While it does seem to include a lot of replicas and reproductions, especially where historical documents are concerned (some of which would benefit from transcripts), it also has a number of original key artefacts on display, e.g. historical weaponry or  items used for public punishments, a mummified head, a glove stained with the blood of Kaiser Franz from a thwarted assassination attempt,  bomb fragments, a 19th century ‘crime scene kit’, numerous skulls, often with bullet holes or stab wounds, and a guillotine. As well as finding out about the crimes themselves – some so incredible it’s hard to believe they are not fiction – you learn some other interesting tidbits here and there, such as the Austrian tradition not to enforce any death penalties on women between 1900 and 1938, or that Interpol was founded in Vienna in 1923 on the occasion of an international police conference!

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If you are of the faint hearted or easily grossed out, I suggest you don’t look too closely at these last two photographs which show museum exhibits about some of the more gruesome crimes, complete with crime scene photographs.

 

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One Response to “{Austria} Vienna Crime Museum”

  1. Eva Says:

    Hi, I was in this museum last year. Very interesting Eva

    Reply

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