The Author at the Museum
Where I come from, horses talk, ships have holes drilled below the waterline so that passersby can look in, grasshoppers twice the size of a grownup man jump through darkened rooms to delight children and time stands still in the main street, frozen in a year close to World War One.
All this, I assure you, is true, this strange world of fantasy lives not just in the imagination but also in reality, it is dreamlike and tangible at the same time, it is a world where stories are told and retold, about the world as it is, as we know it must be and the world as we imagine it to be.
The world, where fiction and reality intermingle, where children and adults alike look, listen and learn, together and individually, is not the world of the fairy tale, it is not the universe of Hans Christian Andersen. It can be found in the North East of England, but also across the United Kingdom, Europe, the world. It is the world of the modern museum, where the academy meets showbiz in the world of actual and virtual reality.
This paper is about a contemporary public facility and tourist attraction: the museum, and about Hans Christian Andersen and the museum. It tells a story about the nineteenth century museum as experienced by a nineteenth century culture vulture and professional tourist (although, no doubt, some people will prefer to call him a traveller to make it sound more dignified). And it is also a story about a museum piece, which is what Hans Christian Andersen himself is, an exhibit in the museum of the imagination, constantly the subject of interpretation and reinterpretation, presentation and representation, an icon of both the past and the present.
It is Andersen's status as, in the best possible sense of the word "a museum piece" that forms the starting point for this paper. Andersen is, he has been for over 150 years, a cultural phenomenon, an artist and a public personality. His lifetime spans the century when the European museum came of age and when the foundations were laid for our present twentieth century consumer society. In the modern tourist industry those two phenomena have at least to an extent got together.
Over the past decades, several attempts have been made to create a Hans Christian Andersen theme park. These attempts have failed and it is my impression that they have failed because of widespread opposition to the very idea of presenting a cultural heavyweight through what is seen as the culturally light weight medium of the theme park. Andersen, it seems, is being protected by his twentieth century fellow Danes from being exploited commercially, stripped naked of his artistic dignity and cast into the lion's den of the marketplace.
And that is the original motivation for writing this paper, which will not attempt a critique of the actual attempts to "theme" Andersen but rather investigate whether there is anything inherently wrong in presenting a literary personality of Andersen's format through the exhibition medium of the theme park rather than the conventional museum, where we can already meet him in Odense in Denmark. Andersen is part of Denmark's cultural heritage but also part of the whole world's cultural heritage, and he is not only part of our literary culture but also our tourist culture. He is an attraction, an asset. That must inevitably determine what kind of museum piece he might become.
The angle from which this will be approached is a marketing angle. Not, you will appreciate, a "selling" angle but one that, like marketing generally, looks at how organizations design and present their product for particular audiences. Modern marketing is so widespread that it is no longer realistic - or reasonable - to isolate it from, say, high culture. Marketing is now part of our general culture. The way in which this paper approaches Andersen and the museum is by looking at Andersen's potential as, what in the professional jargon of market economics is call-ed "product", that is as a phenomenon that can find an appropriate audience somewhere. With a cultural product, interpretation is a crucial precondition for production. You do not just market things, objects, you market what those things or objects mean, to the producer, marketer, audience. This paper is therefore ultimately aimed at how museums create a product for their audiences, it is not a literary or theoretical exercise. The purpose is therefore to see what kind of interpretation is appropriate for a great world writer such as Andersen.
The museum provides an ideal focus for such an investigation because of changes that have taken place in museums over the past few decades, not only in the UK but elsewhere. Museums have increasingly changed their status from being "temples of high culture" to becoming much more open and modern communication media. In so doing, they have also begun to adopt and adapt modern marketing principles. This has some inevitable implications for museums and what they contain since it also implies or at least can imply a commodification of the museum and what it contains. This paper will suggest, using Andersen's own experience, that the process of placing culture in the market place is not altogether a new phenomenon, although the application of modern marketing principles is: they do, after all, belong to our own century. It will also suggest that Andersen himself was hinting that the kind of exciting museum world I described before was a possibility, at least in the artist's imagination, almost 175 years ago.
The recent changes in the museum have some ethical implications. They certainly make it less easy for us to suggest that the museum or any of the other, similarly affected arts are pure, free of external, commercial concerns. Culture may be seen as increasingly commodified, it is turned into a product to be consumed by an audience, who exchange cash for the culture they want and who only do so if they think that there is no other and better way of spending their cash.
2. Background to the Study: Theory and Literature
One part of the theory behind this study relates to changes that have taken place in British museums since the 1970s, and in this paper I shall be drawing on literature relating to these changes. These changes have turned the modern museum into a postmodern exhibition medium,1 intent on broadening its audience and make its collections accessible to a wider audience by employing a wide range of exhibition techniques that allow us to describe it as truly "multimedia".
As a general policy for museums this can be seen as a museum response to many years' striving for a popularization of culture, a push that has mainly come from the political left and which fits in with a broader democratization project that has been going on since the nineteenth century, intensifying in the 1960s and 1970s. Some may worry that it has brought the museums closer to Disneyland. It has certainly brought them closer to the audience that might otherwise spend their leisure time in e.g. Disneyland. However, these changes are not simply predicated on changes in what we can call creative or cultural policy. In the UK, there has also been considerable political pressure from the opposite end of the political spectrum. Conservative British since 1979 have introduced a new philosophy in the British public sector, requiring publicly funded institutions to be increasingly accountable for the way they spend public funds and increasingly dependent on revenue earned through new activities, by marketing and selling a range of new and additional services or redesigning their existing offerings. This policy of privatization, which has signalled a move away from a socalled dependency culture to a socalled enterprise culture, has also affected the entire cultural sector, including the museums sector, which has had to adopt a range of modern management techniques, including modern marketing.2
Arguably this is more likely to be the case for larger, even national institutions, who appeal to tourists and local audiences rather than to smaller, local museums which continue to provide a more immediate service to their community.
However, the push for change has also come from within the museum sector itself. Since the 1970s, a large number of private museums have opened in the United Kingdom, reflecting an increased interest in the national heritage and in collecting, preserving and exhibiting it. Because these museums have not enjoyed public subsidies, they have had to charge visitors and generally adapt the kind of modern business methodologies that would allow them to survive. This sector has arguably laid the foundations for the use of modern business management methods in the modern museum, in both the private and the public sector, and central among those methods are those of modern marketing.3
The management of museums has much in common with the management of arts organizations generally, and in the UK literature on museums management is considerably more developed than that of other, creative arts.4 Arts management is, of course, not simply about managing organizations but also and perhaps more importantly about managing the relationship between practitioners and audiences and arts marketing or cultural marketing, with its potential for maintaining audiences and reaching out to new ones has a central place in this. Because of the essentially ethical nature of the arts, arts marketing is also inherently ethical.
One major factor that has influenced the way we now see the museum is its inclusion in the leisure market.5 Where previously the museum seemed to enjoy the status of a central (and indispensable) institution in any civilized society, on the lines of health, education, libraries etc., it has now become part of a much larger sector, a complex market of leisure activities that potentially compete for its audiences. Among these are cinemas, sports clubs, theme parks, even shopping centres that vie for people's scarce - although increasing - leisure time. Thus deprived of its privileged status, the museum has to compete on equal conditions with commercial institutions, whilst defending its original status as academic, educational and cultural institution. The change, you will no doubt realize, is not simply related to economic changes but also to more general changes in our definition of culture, which is becoming increasingly wide.
In the UK is has also become part of a heritage market,6 aimed at a more general tourist audience. This sector of cultural life includes the museum but also any other organization or project that relies on people's interest in the national heritage and creates a marketable product out of the nation's heritage. Such products may depend on academic research and actual historical or other real objects but it can also be more or less fictional based on reconstruction. Here, in the tourism market, the museum can more clearly be seen as a resource, not only in cultural terms but also in economic terms. This raises a number of more direct ethical issues such as the commodification of culture, the creation of cultural products for consumption by audiences, and the notion of management, marketing, sales etc. come more directly to the fore here.
It is tempting to see these developments as evidence that the museum has been forced to retreat as a cultural institution in the face of overwhelming attacks from non-cultural forces. I do not believe that it is realistic to see these developments simply as the victory of commercialism over idealism.
Commentators on the museum in the late twentieth century have reflected both the critical selfawareness of modern museum practitioners and the huge variety today of types of museum and of types of exhibition technique. In recent decades, the museum has been increasingly dynamic and inventive in the way it presents itself and its exhibits to audiences, it has taken on board the need to become more open and accessible to a wider section of contemporary audiences defined not simply by their social or educational background but also by their lives in a society singing to the tune of satellite television, Internet and hypermarket, a modern society where the dividing lines between high and low culture are becoming increasingly difficult to distinguish.
To that extent, the modern museum shows itself as a truly postmodern medium, and I suggest that we have to take the modern, professionally managed museum on its face value, not as an institution in retreat but as a medium making its mark, its rivulet on the surface of the raging rivers of contemporary culture. At this point we are in fact returning the issues of ethics and philosophy and accepting that any consideration of Hans Christian Andersen as a museum piece is a question of ethics, such as any consideration of arts and culture must be, but they must be the ethics of a rapidly changing, latetwentieth century world.
3. The Material Researched
The main sources of material for this paper are published primary sources, namely Hans Christian Andersen's extensive diaries7 from the years 18251875 and his almanacs8 from the period 18331873. These give the largest number of details of where and when Andersen visited museums. To these can be added his autobiographies,9 several of his travel descriptions10 and collections of correspondence with his contemporaries.11 In addition to this, some of his fictional works12 have been included for what they have to tell us about the importance of the museum as a cultural institution in Andersen's time and in his view of the age he lived in.
4. Introduction to the Main Section
The main section of the paper will seek to throw light on Andersen as a museum visitor in Europe. He will be treated both as a cultural personality travelling through Europe to pick up inspiration and knowledge about the culture of his day and as a tourist, whose museum visits form only part of a broader set of attractions.
Andersen travelled frequently and made a large number of visits to museums large and small throughout Europe, and there would be little point in going through them methodically in chronological order. Instead I shall be concentrating on main events at either end of his career as a museum visitor, namely his first journeys abroad in 1831 and 183334, and his visit to the Paris Exhibition in 1867. Obviously there will be other stops on the way but it is my contention that those two events can tell us both how Andersen learns to become a tourist and it can tell us a great deal about how the museum develops over that century to become part of a wider spectrum of exhibition media that vie for the attention of the visitor.
5. Andersen's Credentials as a Museum "Specialist"The Museum as "Cultural Capital"
Andersen was no historian, he had no experience of that related discipline that developed alongside - or even ahead of - the modern 19th century museum, namely archaeology. The nineteenth century museum and archaeology are both part of the spectrum of developing scientific disciplines, but Andersen was no scientist either. His strengths lay in his talents, his genius as a writer, and it is as an individual and a cultural personality that he judges the museum.
However, when it comes to his experience of museums, we can also assume that he was looking to them for cultural capital. We know, from his autobiographies, that this man, who came from a poor background, left his home in the provincial capital of Odense to travel to Copenhagen, and that he failed in his attempts to become a stage artist but attracted the attention of influential citizens with his writing and was given a secondary level education. This gave him the cultural ballast needed in those days to take up a career as a professional writer. He was, you might say, trained as a middleclass person and given what Boudrillard speaks of as cultural capital.13
Over the years, Andersen himself becomes cultural capital, as his fame spread across Europe, America and elsewhere in the world. From about 1840, Andersen enjoys the status of an international literary star, his face recognized everywhere by people who have seen it in booksellers' windows or in periodicals and magazines, and his name known to even larger numbers of people whom Andersen comes across in stage coaches and on trains all over Europe and to whom he reveals his real identity with something that often does not really look like modesty. He visits the homes of European aristocrats and monarchs, giving readings like a 1990s literary personality. He also becomes a capital resource of a rather more prosaic type, as a dispersed Hans Christian Andersen Industry of statuettes, prints and unauthorized translations develops. Andersen eventually becomes an icon, an exhibit, whose identity is defined not only by himself but also by his audience, he becomes his own image, his own "shadow", whose destiny it is to become immortalized through his works. The interpretation of Andersen takes over from "Andersen an sich".
Museum Development in Denmark In Andersen's own country, Denmark, the museum was rapidly developing along the same lines as elsewhere in Europe.14 In 1807, a Royal Commission was established to turn the existing royal collections of antiquities, medals, arms, anthropological objects, natural historical objects etc. into a series of modern, scientifically valid and specialised collections and museums, open to the public and suitable for underpinning contemporary scientific research. During Andersen's own lifetime, Copenhagen saw the opening of museums for e.g. Ethnography, Natural History, Prints, Art and Nordic Antiquities, and we know from his almanacs that he visited them and took important visitors to see them. One museum that deserves special mention is Thorvaldsen's Museum, the museum dedicated to Andersen's contemporary, the sculptor Bertel Thorvaldsen, and we shall be returning to that shortly.
The first head of the Danish National Museumtobe, Christian Jürgensen Thomsen (17881865), was not only instrumental in developing these museums but also contributed to the modern, chronological division of mankind's early history into stone age, bronze age and iron age,15 thereby providing us with a link between developing museums and developing scientific endeavour. Andersen went museum-visiting in Rome with Christian Jürgensen Thomsen on 1st June 1846, and in 1867, when the Danish stand at the Paris Exhibition was being planned, the two busts requested were of Thomsen and Andersen. The two were obviously international symbols of Danish culture, likely to be recognized by foreigners.
Andersen: a Man of His (Cultural) Age We can see, from his diaries, that he knew the entire range of museums being developed by Thomsen and his contemporaries in America and Europe in the 18th and 19th centuries, as part of the great modernist project of investigating mankind and his heritage and environment on scientific, objective grounds, on the assumption that history was a process of development from primitive society to civilization and from primitive to sophisticated life forms.16
Andersen was obviously no scientist, he was an artist and he was a Romantic artist at that. In his world view, there was always more to life than met the eye, even the trained eye of the skilled scientist. His fairy tales with their elements of the supernatural or at least the fantastic are not simply expressions of artistic invention, they reflect his real belief in the immaterial side of human existence. His love of his own country was, for instance, not a scientific fact but an expression of where he felt he belonged, as well as what we now recognize as a part of the spirit of his age, the Romantic or late Romantic period.
On the other hand, Andersen was a man of his century, he clearly believed in scientific progress, he appreciated and enjoyed the scientific inventions of his own time, he benefited from improving communications of his time, and he forecast, in several of his works, that those beneficial aspects of modern technology would continue to develop and enhance our lives.
In a sense, the European museums of the 19th century reflect the same dichotomy of, on the one hand, the hunger for factual knowledge about the real world and, on the other, the need to use knowledge in the service of ideology, to underpin the identity of the 19th century nation state, both historically and culturally. We may therefore say that Andersen and the 19th century museum not only belong to the same century but also that, in broad terms, they work to the same philosophical agenda.
In our own age, when the creation of a European stage is being considered, even pursued actively, it is worth noting in passing that the same agenda - and the same dichotomy - still keep philosophers and thinkers busy, only in our own age we are finding it increasingly difficult to keep fact and ideology apart, having realized that the two are closely interdependent. Andersen, as we shall see, was concerned to maintain the distinction between the two, but found it difficult to do so, and in the context of this paper it is worth noting that the distinction is a relevant issue in the modern heritage industry, where museums are increasingly turning to theatre and fictionalization in the way they present fact, and where the tourism industry on the other hand can engage in attempts to create a new European nation state (which at least for the time being must surely count as a fiction, a proposal) by marketing our new common culture.17 Given that Andersen both belongs to a national culture - in Denmark - and an international one, we may ask ourselves how we would expect him to be presented to modern audiences, what the truth is about him as part of our heritage, and how we would want that to be communicated.
6. The Museum and Heritage in Andersen's Fiction
It should not surprise us to find evidence of this in Andersen's creative work and it so happens that in his first collection of fairy tales, from 1835, we find a reference to Denmark's first museum, the famous Cabinet of Curiosities, established by Ole Worm in the 17th century and still in existence in the early 19th century. The famous pea from the story of "The Princess and the Pea", was, the story says, "placed in the Cabinet of Curiosities, where it may still be seen, unless it has been stolen".18
It would be an exaggeration to say that Andersen's tales are replete with references to museums, although, perhaps significantly, the 1867 Paris Exhibition does get a lookin.19 However, a review of Andersen's novels do indicate how he rated them as parts of the overall cultural landscape of Europe and Denmark. In these days of European integration, it is worth stressing that the cultural landscape is decidedly international, not, for all the Romantic nationalism of the age, national.
His first novel, The Improvisatore from 1835, is an autobiographical novel masquerading, as it were, as the story of a young Italian of poor extraction, who is adopted by a rich family and finds himself growing up, conveniently, in the Villa Borghese, whose galleries Andersen visited several times. Since Andersen does not often describe museums and galleries in great detail in his diaries, it is worth including his description of the galleries in The Improvisatore:
Inside the palace, a small garden lies surrounded on four sides by tall, whitewashed arches with statues and busts; tall aloes and cacti grew against the bays, lemon trees carried green fruit, not yet yellowed by the sun. Two dancing bacchanti held a bowl aloft but tilting it so that the water flowed from it over their shoulders; tall water plants let their succulent green leaves drop over them.
We ascended the wide marble staircase. In the niches stood delightful statues; Domenica knelt in front of one of these, making the sign of the cross, she thought it was the Madonna; I later learned that it was Vesta, the sacred virgin of another human race. Waiters in rich livery received us  the halls were so large, so rich priceless. The floors were made from marble, shiny as mirrors, and on all walls hung wonderful paintings and where they were missing the wall was made of mirror glass with painted angles, flying with garlands and floral wreaths, coloured birds spreading their large wings and picking at red and golden fruit.20
In The Improvisatore, art is a formative influence in the development of main characters and this theme is repeated elsewhere in later novels. We may, once more, bear in mind Boudrillard's thoughts on the acquisition of cultural capital, except that here we are talking about acquiring it at an early stage on the development of the individual, to qualify the individual as a member of polite society. And it is, indeed, in this way that Andersen uses the experience of museum going in other novels, as an integral element in the (more or less) ideal personality. In his second novel, O.T. from 1836, the main character uses artistic language to describe his surroundings, showing him to have an artistic sensibility. In Only a Fiddler from 1837 Andersen places a main character, Naomi, in an art museum, the Palace Collection in Vienna,21 mainly to show her in cultured surroundings. Her appreciation of art, as she comes across it in Florence and Rome, is used to show the depth of her character,22 and these were galleries that Andersen knew well.
In The Two Baronesses from 1848 Andersen brings fictional characters and the real museum into much closer contact. The widowed grandmother of one central character spends her widowhood in Italy where she becomes an art connoisseur and where her daughter marries and eventually gives birth to a remarkably Mediterranean-looking daughter, although we do not hear that either parent looks particularly Mediterranean. I suspect that somehow the very culture of Italy has influenced the genetic makeup of the character. This daughter is later described by a male character as being "quite the Madonna by Raphael that hangs in Dresden", although, as the same character admits, "he had not been to Dresden but he had seen an excellent copy in Frankfurt. - He was a muchtravelled man."23 23 In this novel, the upper classes are revealed as owners of their own art collections,24 they travel Europe and experience foreign art collections25 etc.
7. Andersen and Thorvaldsen's Museum
By far the most interesting part of the novel from our point of view is its reference to the establishment of the Thorvaldsen Museum in Copenhagen, which I have already referred to. The idea for this museum was first conceived in 1833, the year when Andersen himself first met the sculptor Thorvaldsen at his studio in Rome, where Thorvaldsen had lived since the 1790s, establishing himself as a major European artist. In 1836, when Thorvaldsen returned to his native land, Denmark, a Committee was formed to oversee the project and the public collection of funds for it. Andersen had a direct contact to this Committee through his benefactor and protector, Jonas Collin. Thorvaldsen donated his personal art collection to Denmark and in the period 1839-48 (the latter being the year of the publication of The Two Baronesses) a building was converted for use as Denmark's first dedicated art museum.
There are two letters, written by Andersen to his good friend and confidante Henriette Hanck in 1837, in which he deals with the museum, initially with a combination of flippancy and superficiality. "Baroness Stampe is enthusiastic", he writes, and continues:
... her upstairs maid and her kitchen maid have contributed three marks each, her coachman and servant a dollar each. Professor Høyen gave a speech about it in the Royal stables and all the stable boys are enthusiastic, he says. The horses kicked back and the stable boys coughed up. [...] I'll pay fifty dollars if Thorvaldsen will carve me in marble so that I can reside in the building myself.26
He apologizes for poking fun at the project at this point, but two months later he returns to the subject and reveals that he dislikes the idea of creating such a museum by public subscription - "it is not at all a matter for the people", he writes.27 But he also reveals himself to be something of a specialist on art museums, and this is characteristic of a man who, although he may not have been much of a businessman did, in fact, have considerable acumen when it came to assessing how to make art work. The problem with the proposed museum is that
almost no works by Thorvaldsen are available. Most things made in marble are destined for somewhere else and to put up a building for plaster casts is far too much. No foreigners will travel here to see plaster casts and you should not educate people in art using that kind of imperfect object.28
So he was concerned with the international profile of the new museum as well as with the kind of exhibits that would belong there. The modern marketer recognizes the issue instantly, Andersen is concerned with the overall image of the museum, the need for consistency in the overall presentation and the problem of meeting the needs of known or intended audiences for the museum. The difference between his age and ours is, of course, that we now take a much more methodical approach to these things, as our present age requires us to do.
The Two Baronesses reflect a similar attitude on Andersen's part to museums and the quality of both their content and their sponsors. He writes of one character, Countess Clara, that she "was a protector of beauty, she painted, wrote the most delightful poetry, so it was said, and apparently she had not only herself given money to Thorvaldsen's Museums but had collected money for it and forced others to give".29
Using his license to play the omniscient author, Andersen arranges a meeting between the Countess and Thorvaldsen, giving us further insight into the mind of the author himself. The novel describes the meeting like this:
The kind old artist gave them a warm welcome, took them on a guided tour, and whenever the gracious countess spoke in too great exaltation, so much as to vex him, he got his good mood back by looking at her beautiful face, her eloquent eyes, for she was still beautiful. Everything had to be seen, the studio, the room with the bronzes and the paintings.
'Well? I must see the holy of holies,' Clara said, 'Your bedroom!'
'There's nothing there but my old boots and slippers,' Thorvaldsen replied.
'They will also find a place in our museum one day,' she said, and she might well call it "our" museum as she had a considerable stake in it.
'I suppose a cobbler will be installed in the basement,' Thorvaldsen said, his face stiffening with boredom.30
It is clear from this that Andersen has absorbed enough cultural conditioning to poke fun of the notion of "popular" involvement in the creation of a museum, partly, it would seem, because "the people" (bear in mind that we are talking about a countess) is not able to put the artist's image across in the appropriate way but will get involved with trivia.
Andersen was to become more open-minded later in his life but he remained interested in the appropriate way of protecting the image of himself as an artist, as we know from his own views on the statue that was to be erected in his honour late in his life. He was to become involved in a more practical way in getting exhibits together for Thorvaldsen's Museum on his travels through Germany,31 and he had, incidentally, come across a Dresden collection of unusual personal objects which may well have coloured his view on preserving the personal belongings of famous people.
The Dresden Armoury, when he visited it in 1846, contained, apart from Napoleon's coronation shoes, also
... Kant's, Wieland's and Murat's [shoes]. Goethe's authograph; [the poet] Baggesen's wallet, Thorvaldsen's modelling staff, 'a time will come when we'll also want to possess your shoes,' said the man who was our guide, 'the collection will need to be considerably extended', I answered, 'if it is to have room for mine'.32
In our day and age we expect to find the personal belongings of famous people at least in museums dedicated to their own history, although they will also be found in other museums, if only for their rarity value. The fact that Andersen was concerned by it only highlights the fact that this was - and is - an issue in the museum, and Andersen was by no means consistent in his objection to having rare, personal items in museum collections.
Andersen clearly did have good credentials as an observer and evaluator of museums in his own age. He saw them as part of the cultural background which civilized men and women had to have, as a Romantic and a man in the Age of Steam he shared their world view, he had included them in his own fiction to underline their importance, and finally he held views on how they might best do their job of presenting our cultural heritage.
8. Andersen in the European Museums
We now move on to Andersen's actual experience of the European museums. As I suggested earlier, I intend to look at the early and late periods of his career as a museum visitor, more specifically his two earliest journeys abroad in 1831 and 1833-34, and then his experience of the Paris Exhibition of 1867. The main method here will be to use Andersen's own words to illustrate how he encountered museums.
The museum enters Andersen's writings for the first time when he goes abroad and visits some of the great galleries and museums of Europe. At that point they are already well-established institutions, set pieces on the educated tourist's progress through Germany, France, Italy and, of course, England with its British Museum. As the Andersen student quickly realizes, there is more to the European museum in the nineteenth century than the British Museum, Schinkel's Ales Museum in Berlin or even Italy's Vatican, Palazzo Pitti etc. It must be borne in mind that the nineteenth century European museum is different from the museum of our own times: it lacks many of the ancillary services that we now associate with the modern museum experience. Yet as we find, many of the issues arising in our contemporary cultural and museum debate were around in Andersen's time.
Andersen sets out on his first journey abroad in 1831, spending more than five weeks in Germany, visiting Braunschweig, Goslar, the Harz mountains, Halle, Leipzig, Dresden and Berlin. Germany, as the cradle of European Romanticism and as the cultural melting pot of the emerging German nation is, of course, the ideal country for a young Romantic author to visit, and Andersen is to become particularly attached to Germany in the years that follow, as the country where he is to have his breakthrough as an international literary artist.
In 1831, Andersen publishes his first travel book, Shadowy Images of a Journey to the Harz Mountains, and here he describes his impression of this new - new to him, that is - country. His description of how he travels with a German antiquarian (a character he invented, incidentally) reveals both his awareness of Danish archaeology and his own somewhat mannered Romantic response to the notion of collecting and exhibiting historical (in this case religious) relics:
The antiquarian whose acquaintance I had made ... wanted to proceed to Qvedlinburg that very evening ... He was a very good-natured man, whose joy in life dwelt in an old coin; at any moment he would pull his cow's bone out and assure me that it had to belong to one of the Huns; no landscape, he told me, held such joy, such spiritual beauty as such an ancient relic; he asked me whether we also collected such remains of ancient times in Denmark; I had to tell him all I knew, and when I started telling him about our burial mounds and sacrificial stones, whose like you never see here in Germany, he acquired great respect for our national home and pronounced me a happy man who lived in the land of Sagas. He insisted on my going to Qvedlinburg, to see the castle, the old churches and all the many curiosities that were there. Would you believe, they had one of those six vessels in which, at the wedding of Canaa, Christ had turned water into wine, a part of that finger with which St. John pointed Christ out, a bottle of Holy Mary's mother's milk, earth from Golgotha, a splinter of Christ's Cross etc., and what was most particularly noteworthy, the comb with which Heinrich Vogelfänger had combed his beard. Yet all these delights did not tempt me, l longed for great nature herself.33
Of course, as a writer Andersen is entertaining his audience by poking fun at the antiquarian but the actual museums he was to come across, and their exhibits, had some of the same random character as the relics referred to here and many of them were noteworthy exactly for the similar reasons, namely that they were associated with real people. It is just that they were "real" objects, that were associated with real, historical characters, and in his demand for access to the real thing, Andersen is very much a man of his own, scientific age.
We realize the link between religious and historical relics when reading his description of a visit to the castle at Dresden, where he first visits a museum called "das grüne Gewölb" ("the green vault"), a traditional display of royal or aristocratic objects of curiosity. Andersen shows little interest in the gems or precious knickknacks that fill the display boxes or the lifesized portraits of Kings of Saxony that loom over them.
On the other hand, the castle museum has a very different effect on him, as he explains:
The armoury interested me more than das grüne Gewölb. Weapon by weapon hung in large rooms; many a famous horse that once carried a royal prince on its back had been carved in wood, painted and equipped with saddle and bridle; but although our gentleman guide declared frequently that the wooden image was of a Danish horse I was not affected more. Kings and knights made of wax stood like enchanted halbardiers at the door, staring at us with lifeless eyes. There were entire display cabinets full of arrows and pistols; I saw a drum made with human skin; I saw the suit of armour worn by King Gustavus Adolphus the day before he fell at Lützen and a saddle in which Napoleon had sat, etc. etc.
I dreamt of nothing else, the whole of the following night, than daggers, gains, waxen images and large wooden horses so that I felt quite unwell.34
The observer of the modern museum will perhaps recognize the response on the part of the visitor to a wellpresented display. And, of course, Andersen also responds appropriately to the bizarre and the fascinating, which the modern museum might well also want for its very rarity value (with the exception, of course, of the rather morbid drum). That Andersen's sleep should have been disturbed is a rather less fortunate outcome, but it indicates that he is not likely to forget the experience and, anyway, we do not hear him complain about it.
Andersen also wanted to visit the art gallery in Dresden. The fact that it was closed for refurbishment was no obstacle to a young man with connections: the Danish consul got him in along with two young Norwegians, and he saw Raphael's Madonna, which clearly made a deep impression on him.
However, he also reveals himself as a critical visitor, when he comments on the gallery generally:
In some rooms paintings lay along the floor but in most the works had been hung in proper fashion. What a profusion of art works! one picture pushed aside the impression of the other. This really is too much of a good thing and therefore leaves you spiritually limp; almost as when you read too many aphorisms at the same time.35
The modem museum marketer - and curator and designer - will immediately recognize the problem of how the make the visitor comfortable and receptive in a potentially confusing environment of the wellstocked gallery. Andersen develops his own strategy of revisiting specific works during his visit, thereby demonstrating that as modern museologists suggest, the visitor creates his own narrative out of the display in the museum or gallery, following his own path at his own speed. The problem of mental overload is not a new one and on other occasions Andersen expresses his weariness at all the sites the conscientious traveller has to visit.
On this journey, Andersen also saw Carl Friedrich Schinkel's impressive Altes Museum in Berlin, opened the previous year, in 1830, as a carefully designed monument to Western art, from the Ancients to the present, taking the visitor on a chronological journey through his own civilization.36 By presenting his passport to the keeper he is admitted on a day when the museum is normally not open to the public (that was the foreign visitor's privilege). He does pay homage to the splendour of Schinkel's architecture, with its broad external stairway, arches and columns and the great central rotunda, but he fails to go on the intended journey through the ages of art and instead contrasts the polished floors and liveried attendants with what strikes him as surprisingly ugly European art, ugly not for being modern but for showing disgustingly realistic details on religious paintings, swelling veins and pearl of sweat on the dying Christ etc.37 To him, Schinkel seems to have created a beautiful facade without correspondingly beautiful art, and hollow facades sometimes worry Andersen a great deal, again reminding us of his preference for facts.
That becomes immediately obvious on his next journey. In 1833, Andersen embarked on his "grand tour" of Europe, supported with a royal grant enabling him to spend more than a year in Germany, France, Italy and Austria.
He almost immediately came across a phenomenon that has become common in modern museum and tourism debate, namely that of reconstruction. The issue is ethical and has to do with truth: how credible is the reconstruction of, say, a historical building, what currency can it have in relation to the real thing. Nowadays the notion of offering audiences the experience of what something used to be like when it was in use, is common and can be found both in respectable openair museums and in theme parks.
In this case, Andersen was in Cassel and came across a complete, reconstructed Mediaeval castle, the Löwenburg. This substantial edifice, with its four turrets (one of them 130 feet tall), its empty moat with drawbridge, chapel, wellstocked armoury etc. did not impress a Romantic writer who wanted the real thing. As he wrote in his diary, it "all held the same fascination for me as a beautiful drawing but the knowledge that it was not a real castle, just a copy, meant that it had no poetic value for me whatsoever".38
The nineteenth century museum proper was different, it was factual, it was scientific. Or at least it strove to be so. The contradictions soon reappear. A month later, in Paris, having failed to visit any art museums, he finds himself in something called the "Cabinet mysterieux":
Tuesday 11th June . Visited the Cabinet mysteriøs [sic], it was dreadful! all the sexual parts depicted with the most terrible diseases, cold sweat sprang from my fingertips. - A woman showed us around.39
What Andersen had come across, for the first but not the last time, was probably one of the travelling exhibitions devoted to human illness, illustrated with morbidly lifelike waxmodels. This was surely health information and this type of exhibition would often be referred to as a museum, lending it some respectability. But there is surely also an overlap here with the fairground freakshow, it combined education and entertainment, which we would also expect many modern museums to do, although in very different ways.
It may not be practical, realistic or even reasonable to make distinction between education and entertainment in any museum. Certainly, in our own century, we have experienced a democratization of culture that makes it hard to distinguish between "highbrow" and "lowbrow" culture in anything like absolute terms. However, it has to be accepted that those who created the museums of the nineteenth century often had ideas of ennobling their visitors and of maintaining a hierarchy of standards which was entirely real to them. There is no doubt in my mind that Andersen subscribed to that idea himself.
And yet, when we meet him, in October of 1833, in Pisa, it is sometimes hard to see where imbibing the nectar of learning ends and straightforward enjoyment begins. On 5th October, he is in Pisa and visits not only the Leaning Tower (of course, and it is a dirty yellow colour, he tells us) but also the church, the Baptistry, the botanical gardens and the natural history museum:
We now went to the Cabinet l'histoire natural, on the way up we saw the giant skeleton of a sperm whale; upstairs a superbly stuffed wild bear [was] tearing open the belly of a dog. A tableau of two wolves, a dog and a dead lamb. Beautiful humming birds with the most delightful colours, the blue more beautiful than the sea and the sky. An alpine bear, a delightful mountain goat. The skeleton of a shark thrown ashore 24 years ago at Pietra Sancta; a lynx from the Alps, an ibis from Egypt. We saw a delightful bird called Monura Lira, its tail the most delightful lyre shape, the moth with the death's head, sphinx atropos.40
He is just observing nature and animals, of course, he is looking at scientific specimens, but again he is describing staged displays of stuffed animals, responding to the theatre that museums are now - and clearly were then - capable of producing, and which has taken us away from the simple presentation of objects in cases to the aesthetically thoughtthrough arrangement of them in meaningful and pleasing form.
Six days later, on 9th October 1833, he is in a similar museum in Florence, the "Museo d'istoria naturale", reportedly "the most beautiful in existence", as he writes in his diary. Apart from, as he also writes, "splendidly made in wax, the human body in every detail, pregnant women", he is also confronted with
a depiction of the plague, rotting corpses lay in the street, bluish-green bodies with babies hanging at their breast. Worms ate them and rats ran about with tornoff parts, it was very repulsive.41
High culture? Theatre? Art? It is hard to categorize and maybe we simply need to acknowledge that the museum has always been a many
splendoured thing, capable of being many different things, with no loss of face. The next day Andersen was off to the Palazzo Uffizi and the Palazzo Pitti and he saw, for the first time, the Venus di Medici that was to convince him of the superiority of sculpture over painting and which he was to revisit many times. But the contradictions remain clear: the museum, even then, was capable of informing in very different ways and no overall aim can be defined for what a nineteenth century museum might hope to achieve.
Looking over Andersen's many museum visits in the years that followed, it is clear that he frequented the great European art museums more than any others. He became a habitual visitor to the great galleries of Rome, Naples, Florence, Munich and Paris.
He confronted the dilemma of the cultural tourist, what to see and what to miss, and on the 183334 grand tour he came across the dutiful tourist, ticking off attraction en route through Europe. In Paris, as he writes in his autobiography:
Everything was seen and had to be seen, that was why we had left our homeland. I still remember one of the dear friends, who in all earnestness thanked his god, when he returned home exhausted from some museums and castles where he had felt particularly bored, but [Andersen quotes:] 'dammit, you've got to see it!' he said, 'it would be a shame to return home and be asked by the others and then not to have been there; I've only got this and that left to visit, but when I've got that done I'm going to enjoy myself properly!' Those were his words and they will very likely be repeated many more times.42
It is part of the story that these people knew how to enjoy themselves in the morally infamous Paris once duty had been done. Nowadays, we would be more likely to devise a package for them that included culture as an option.
The art museum was certainly not the only kind he visited. In 1860 in Nuremberg he visited "das germanische Volksmuseum", the new museum of German culture intended to cement the emerging German nation together with an exhibition of artistic and literary items.43 Observers of more recent history will recall the position that Nuremberg had during the Third Reich and in the war crimes trial afterwards. At this early point in the history of this museum, it is significant because it shows a museum taking on an indirect but obvious political and ideological role in helping to create an identity for a new nation state. Andersen suggests, in his diary, that this kind of museum, which relied not just on actual historical relics but also on plaster casts and historical painting, that could easily be copyed in Denmark. There is no single museum in Denmark or the United Kingdom performing precisely this function but our museums do to a great extent carry it out anyway.
As we progress through Andersen's career as a tourist, we find him in a number of museums, many of them old favourites that he was to return to again and again, others new such as the Anatomical Museum in Leyden,44 the art museums in Madrid and Seville, which completely overwhelmed him,45 the Museum for Napoleon at the Louvre, where he preferred the historical exhibition to the art gallery,46 the new Antwerp Museum of Dutch Art, which was in the process of being decorated by a literally resident artist.47 When visiting the archaeological sites of Pompeii and Herculaneum he would also visit the archaeological museum at Naples, where, as a man, he would also have access to the "camera obscoena" containing astonishing erotic exhibits.48 Although at times he would confess to a certain amount of weariness at seeing so much culture49 - perhaps an early example of the cultural stress that some modern visitors to Florence have experienced - he continued to seek out the museums, including, late in his life, a museum in Nice that exhibited wax models of fungi.50
The ancillary facilities of nineteenth century museums seem to have been rudimentary, but he does come across "a kind of refreshment house" outside a temple in Rome.51 The souvenir industry was, of course, alive and well in those days even if a little disorganised, as we learn from a letter written in 1834:
I have bought genuine lava for granny and a few small items from Tiberius' Villa on Capri. - In Pompeii you dare not take a single rock, but I bought a few pieces in Herculaneum, where things are a little more relaxed.52
9. From "Museum" to "Exhibition"
The modern museum as we now know it was of course yet to come. Yet it was on its way and Andersen but saw it in its early stages and predicted some of its technological developments. In his recent attempt to apply Foucault's principles to the museum, Tony Bennett presents the nineteenth century exhibition as a model for the modern museum. Andersen came across this kind of exhibition in London in 1857, in Madrid in 1862, in Paris in 1867 and even in Copenhagen in 1872. Bennett says of this comprehensive display of modern cultural output - "the exhibitionary complex" is his term - that it served to empower its audience as well as organize them, to give them insight into the way things were presented at the same time as it organized them into "a voluntarily selfregulating citizenry".53
There is little doubt that Andersen was won over by this new medium, if "won over" is not too feeble a description of a man who saw the new exhibition complexes as a kind of fairy palaces of the modern age. In 1857, in addition to visiting the British Museum, that great Harrods of world culture (Andersen himself called it a proper "old curiosity shop" in his 1860 newspaper writeup54 ), he also experienced what must have been a breathtaking Handel concert with a 2,000 strong choir and a 10,000 strong audience in a glass palace - the Crystal Palace, that is - that
... looks like a fairy city, with streets floating and extending (...) climbing plants wound themselves around the pillars, statues and blossoming trees were around us; the shapes of savages beneath their native trees (...) a Pompeiian room, French galleries, all fantastic together, like an arabesque, and the sun shone on the glass roof (...) and when song and music swelled my head buzzed, I nearly wept. 55
By the time he visited the Paris Exhibition in 1867 (he travelled to Paris twice that year to see it) he had become aware of the marketing power of the large, national exhibition. This was not merely "the Aladdin's castle of our times, the wonderful exhibition building with its mirage turned into reality; the garden magicked forth, with flowers from the south and the north, the excellent fishtanks"56 etc. It was also an exhibition where the nations were together as exhibitors but also in competition for attention. Andersen notes, with what looks like irritation, that the Swedish stand is attracting more visitors than the Danish one and complains that a bust of himself is not exhibited whereas a bust of the Norwegian author Bjørnson is, on the Danish stand, that is.57 After a long life as a practitioner, observer and commentator in the world of European art, Andersen responded with enthusiasm to what was essentially a monument to nineteenth century industrial, cultural and political effort. Andersen, late in life, remained open to the new and the unusual, his enthusiasm for the new exhibition medium no less now than his enthusiasm many years before for the more conventional museum.
You can sometimes wonder whether Andersen became more or less receptive to innovation over the years. His response to the modern exhibition suggests a remarkable openmindedness on the part of an elderly and ill gentleman. In one respect he does seem to me to have lost at least some spontaneity over the years. If you look at his early professionally written works, you meet a highly experimental and innovative author, both in his first play and, even more so, in his first novel, a fictional travel description, Fodreise fra Holmens Kanal til Østpynten af Amager, surely one of the finest things he wrote but not one that he chose to follow up with anything like the same determination. What is particularly interesting in the context of this paper is his hint at future technologies. In this story, set in the Copenhagen of the author's dreams - even nightmares - he visits a palace, where the antechamber has cleverly been filled with steamdriven androids, taking the place of the normal courtiers and seekers of royal favour.58 What is more, in the palace library, which he describes:
... under the windows were bookshelves and at each hung, in a silver chain, a living catalogue, that is to say an old starling or parrot who acted librarians of a kind and could list the names of all the books.59
Here are, I suggest, hints of the kind of technology that characterizes the modern, active and interactive museum. Andersen was not specifically predicting any new technology but he was imagining the takeover of technology in the modern information society.
At the 1872 Industrial Exhibition in Copenhagen Andersen was present, not only in person but also in chocolate.60 He was by now an institution in European culture, an attraction and an exhibit, money was being collected for a monument to himself, a commemorative stone had been placed in the wall of his alleged birthplace in Odense, he had appeared on a letter weight and no doubt in many other guises on various souvenirs. That industry, as we know, has grown since.
This paper began by drawing a picture of a modern museum that is increasingly aware of its responsibility to attract audiences in an age where there is increasing competition for the attention of audiences in the leisure market, and where public funding even for public museums cannot be taken for granted. The museum has responded by becoming a much more open, modern and adventurous medium and by becoming more businesslike in the way it organizes itself.
Andersen lived in an age when the museum was becoming established as a modern, scientific medium, in Denmark and across Europe, and it can be seen from his fictional works that he saw museums - in particular art museums - as important elements in the formation of character, not just fictional character but also the character of the fullyrounded modern citizen.
Andersen' s views on Thorvaldsen's Museum suggests that early in his career he was critical of attempts to popularize or trivialize a great cultural personality, a view that comes as no surprise, given the care with which Andersen cultivated his own image.
It has also become clear that he was concerned about the issue of truthfulness. As a nineteenth century man of the age of science he insisted on seeing the real things, he was looking for concrete evidence.
However, it is also evident that then, as now, museums were many different things, and it is far from obvious that Andersen condemned attempts to present reality in terms of an interpretation of reality. Indeed, he was well acquainted with the idea of natural history museums and the German National Museums using artifice in order to make specific points about the nature of reality. In his museum visiting, as in his thinking and writing generally, he had no problems negotiating the borderland between fact and idea, fact and fiction.
What is more, towards the end of his life, when he had long since become an international star, when he had become public property with a public image that the could not hope to control himself, we see him concerned about the fact that Denmark's national image, as presented at the 1867 Paris Exhibition does not include a statue of himself. This is surely not a man who is coy about the way his image is being used, as long as it is not being misunderstood. Andersen was busy supporting the marketing of his own nation and he was enthusiastic about this new exhibition medium that in any way anticipated the modern museum exhibition but which combined culture and industry, spiritual and material aspects of the same culture.
So can Andersen be turned into a theme park, as was the question originally posed in this paper, is an Andersen-land an appropriate medium in which to present this literary character? I would say yes, without hesitation but not entirely without reservation. The main reservation is that a theme park is not a museum, a theme park is an amusement park and that is not necessarily an appropriate medium for the presentation and interpretation of culture.
However, as a medium for the exhibition and interpretation of cultural heritage, the museum has become an educational entertainment, borrowing freely from the many other media and art forms that surround citizens of modern, information-technology dominated societies. These media and arts forms also form the expectations that audiences have of the museums, which must now be marketing orientated, which must respect the wishes of their visitors. I believe - but this obviously must be a matter of belief - that Andersen would have welcomed the late twentieth century museum with its multimedia presentation and with its stress on the complete "experience" of the museum, including all the ancillary services we have now come to take for granted.
And, given the sensitivity to competition from other countries that Andersen showed at the 1867 Exhibition, I suspect that Andersen would have been even more upset that we have not yet turned his world of the imagination, as we know it from his tales, into an imaginative, threedimensional, fullcolour, quadraphonic, hitech and infotech funfair that could confirm that although he lived in the past and belongs to our cultural heritage, ultimately Andersen belongs to the modern, the postmodern world of the new millennium.
2. See e.g. Runyard, S.: The Museum Marketing Handbook (1994). See also Ames, P. J.: "A Challenge for Modern Museum Management: Meshing Mission and Market" in Moore, K. (ed.): Museum Management (1994). back
11. Behrend, C. and H. Topsøe-Jensen (eds.): H. C. Andersens Brevveksling med Edvard og Henriette Collin (1933-37). Larsen, S.: "H. C. Andersens Brevveksling med Henriette Hanck" in Anderseniana, vols. IX-XIII:2 (1941-46). Topsøe-Jensen, H. (ed.): H. C. Andersens Brevveksling med Jonas Collin den Ældre og andre Medlemmer af det collinske Hus (1945-48). Topsøe-Jensen, H. (ed.) H. C. Andersen Breve til Therese og Martin R. Henriques 1860-75 (1932). back
12. Andersen, Hans Christian: De to Baronesser (first published 1848). Id.: Fodreise fra Holmens Canal til Østpynten af Amager (first published 1829). Id.: Improvisatoren (first published 1835). Id.: Kun en Spillemand (first published 1837). Id.: O.T. (first published 1836). Id.: "Prindsessen paa Ærten" (first published 1835). back
14. Boesen, G.: Danish Museums (1996). Danish Museums, special issue of Danske Museer (1992). On the development of the modern European museums, see also Jensen, Jørgen: "Museernes guldalder" in Museum Europa (special issue of Den jyske Historiker, No. 64 (1993)) pp. 77-90, and Museum Europa. Om Tingenes Orden (1993). back
17. Pomain, Krzysztof: "Museet: Europas kvintessens" in Museum Europa, pp. 11-29. Ashworth, G. J. and P. J. Larkham (eds.): Building a New Heritage. Tourism, Culture and Identity in the New Europe (1994). See also Hughes, G.: "Authenticity in Tourism" in Annals of Tourism Research, vol. XXII, No. 4 (1995), pp. 781-803. back
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