Theater Exhibitions, Exhibition Media, and the Humanities around 1900

Theater Exhibitions, Exhibition Media, and the Humanities around 1900

Poster for the international music and theater exhibition in Vienna, 1892. Ernst Klimt, 1892 © Albertina Wien.

Poster for the international music and theater exhibition in Vienna, 1892. Ernst Klimt, 1892 © Albertina Wien.

Poster for the international music and theater exhibition in Vienna, 1892. Ernst Klimt, 1892 © Albertina Wien.

This project focuses on three theater exhibitions that took place in Germany and Austria between the end of the nineteenth century and the 1920s: the Internationale Ausstellung für Musik- und Theaterwesen in Vienna, 1892; the Deutsche Theaterausstellung in Berlin, 1910; and the Deutsche Theater-Ausstellung in Magdeburg, 1927. By presenting to a broad audience the culture, history, and techniques of theater, as well as related arts and media, these exhibitions contributed to the popularization of theater, but also served very particular educational and scientific purposes.

Starting from these interdisciplinary exhibitions, I trace a history of the humanities that exceeds purely academic practices and institutional developments. Disciplines such as theater studies, film studies, and musicology were becoming institutionalized in German-speaking academia around 1900, but at the same time they were conceptualized and propagated within a popular culture of exhibitions.

Apart from examining the personal and institutional relationships that connected the theater exhibitions to the history of discipline formation in the humanities, my project seeks to analyze intersections between exhibition cultures, theater cultures, and music cultures. It focuses on different visual and sound media (exhibition displays, catalogues, educational films, phonographs, théâtrophones) that typified the exhibitions—in contrast to the written media dominating academic practice.