BETWEEN WONDERLAND AND SCIENCE 

 

Since the Baroque period, Admont Abbey has had a "Musaeum" with natural objects and all kinds of rarities. Abbot Gotthard Kuglmayr founded a "Natural History Cabinet" in 1809. This predecessor of the Natural History Museum was destroyed in the fire of 1865. From 1866-1906, Father Gabriel Strobl devoted himself to his task of rebuilding the destroyed museum. He initially focussed primarily on botany, then on insect research. As one of the most important researchers of his time, he built up an insect collection of around 252,000 specimens. The collection of dipterans (diptera/mosquitoes and flies) is one of the most important collections in Europe with more than 50,000 specimens. 

When the museum was remodelled and reopened in 2003, part of it was left in its original historical state. In the so-called "Lion Room" and "South-East Pavilion", exhibits of the local and exotic animal world as well as a collection of rocks and minerals can be seen. Another part of the collections is presented in a modern ambience and in partly new showcases. In addition to information about Fr Gabriel Strobl, insects, reptiles and amphibians are also represented here. Separate rooms are dedicated to the "Gesäuse National Park" and the lifelike wax fruit by Fr Constantin Keller (1778-1864).

The collection photographers Volker Weinhold and Sebastian Köpcke have photographed all the wax fruits. An installation with a selection of these photographic works invites visitors to enter the room with the originals. The detailed photographs make us realise how diverse and far-sighted fruit growing was in the middle of the 19th century, when "biodiversity" and "sustainability" were not yet a thing. The famous wax apple collection at Admont Abbey in Styria was created between 1815 and 1840 under the direction of Father Constantin Keller. He came from Graz and was very much in favour of apple cultivation and the associated agricultural innovations throughout Styria. Today, 243 of these wax models are still preserved. Some of them were modelled by Keller himself from plaster casts of real fruit, with real stems, flower remnants and details such as damage caused by insect damage or rotten spots. The great diversity of varieties that they document has all but disappeared from the region.

The work by Hannelore Demel-Lerchster integrated into the wax fruit room adds the icing on the cake. It shows an apple that has been bitten into and sewn back to "health" and is entitled "Making good again".

A 9-part series of reworked prints from "Die blühende Steyermark" by Arnulf Rainer, created in 1986, enters into a dialogue with the herbaria in the museum's holdings.

Alluding to Fr Gabriel Strobl's insect collection, the artist Lisa Huber has transformed insect motifs into oversized paper cut-outs.

Natural History Museum Wax Fruit Collection www
Admont Abbey Museum - Child in the Natural History Museum with reptiles © Thomas Sattler
011 Admont Abbey ©StefanLeitner LEI7270 1 e1648801330466
Admont Abbey - Natural History Museum ©Thomas Sattler
Natural History Museum c Stefan Leitner e1648800681898
Admont Abbey Museum and Library - Children in the Natural History Museum © Thomas Sattler
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Admont Abbey Museum - Children visit the Natural History Museum © Thomas Sattler
Admont Abbey - Library & Museum © Thomas Sattler
028 Admont Abbey ©StefanLeitner LEI7290 Pano scaled