University of Freiburg: Experiencing literature with all the senses

The joys and frustrations of swimming, men’s groups and women who read voraciously, itineraries and the ‘discovery’ of nature: the new Otium museum of literature presents various facets of the famous spa, Baden-Baden, and reveals how it offered a home to literary figures, a place to study and learn, and a space for otium, or leisure. Housed in the Baden-Baden city library, the museum is the result of a transfer project between the Collaborative Research Center 1015 Otium at the University of Freiburg and the Baden-Baden city library. It combines new developments in museology with the results of Freiburg-based research into otium, and makes it accessible to a broad public.

Otium in style and content of presentation

Prof. Dr. Elisabeth Cheauré and Dr. Regine Nohejl, both literature scholars at the University of Freiburg, have realized the museum together with Sigrid Münch, head of the Baden-Baden city library. Eighteen themed rooms with multimedia displays run throughout the entire buildings, introducing visitors to the cultural and literary history of Baden-Baden and bridging the Middle Ages and the 21st century, drawing on the close connections with great authors of world literature, such as Fyodor Dostoevsky, Mark Twain, Mary Shelley and Victor Hugo. At the same time, the museum interlaces otium – a form of leisure – through both the style and content of presentation, says Elisabeth Cheauré, “Our aim is for visitors to experience otium themselves. We avoid over-stimulation and rely on the possibility of choosing for oneself what to see and what to investigate in more depth. So physical well-being and sensory experiences are as important as stimulating the desire for discovery through interactive elements – analog and digital.” The museum is conceived of as a kind of book with various chapters, explains Regine Nohejl, “The audience can see, hear, feel, read and even grasp the fascinating world of literature.” Sigrid Münch, director of the Otium museum of literature, emphasizes that the concept of this museum is opening up new paths, “The city library and the museum are interacting and forming one unit, which may be unique in Germany.”

The Otium museum of literature is a permanent exhibition; admission is free. Guided group tours are offered for a fee.

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