Review – Special exhibitions

Decentralised provincial exhibition

In SalzburgerLand, Upper Austria and in Tirol, special exhibitions were devoted to the anniversary of the world-famous Christmas song.

Review – Cross provincial national exhibition

Nine different museums and towns joined forces for the national exhibition “200 Years Silent Night — Austria’s Peace Message to the World” from 29 September 2018 to 3 February 2019. The museums in Arnsdorf and Oberndorf, the Salzburg Museum in the provincial capital, the Silent Night Museum in Hallein, the new museum at the Pflegerschlössl in Wagrain, as well as the Museum of Mariapfarr in the Lungau region presented the famous Christmas song and its creators from a variety of different perspectives. Hintersee, where for a decade Joseph Mohr was active as a parish vicar, invited visitors to experience the new theme trail revolving around the town’s history, the conservation of creation and the soundscape of nature – also after the anniversary year 2018. Beyond Salzburg’s provincial borders, the national exhibition was joined by Hochburg-Ach in Upper Austria, Franz Xaver Gruber’s place of birth, as well as Fügen, for the international dissemination of Silent Night began in the Zillertal Valley.

The cross-provincial integration of the nine Silent Night Locations in Salzburg, Upper Austria and Tirol increased the media’s attention on the individual locations and far beyond the borders of any single province. The Focus was directed at raising awareness about and increasing identification between the creation story of Silent Night and the three provinces from “the Innviertel region to Salzburg and all the way to the Zillertal Valley”, as well as the mapping of Franz Xaver Gruber’s and Joseph Mohr’s life stages. In order to make the national exhibition also available in digital form, a “Silent Night” museum app was created and aimed at bringing the subject closer to users in a playful manner. Internationally, the national exhibition set a strong touristic impulse so that the theme can be established across the three provinces in the long-term.

The national exhibition launched on 29 September 2018 at all participating Museums and was open till 03 Februar 2019.

Due to the anniversary in 2018, two of the participating museums were completely renovated with support from the Province of Salzburg, whilst two additional museums were revamped, likewise supported by the Province of Salzburg: The Silent Night Museum in Oberndorf that was already reopened in December 2016, whilst the Silent Night Museum at the Pflegerschlössl in Wagrain has been open to the public since December 2017. In addition to existing permanent exhibitions, both establishments, exemplary of a new era in terms of the design of regional museums, put a special exhibition on display. Also after the anniversary year, Oberndorf employs both texts and tunes to engage with the historical context of the years 1818, 1918 and 2018. Wagrain, on the other hand, provides insight into the Christmas culinary traditions of various countries around the world.

Likewise, the Silent Night Museum Hallein was completely revamped and is open to visitors also after the anniversary year 2018: Here, everything revolves around Franz Xaver Gruber’s life and work in the little salt mine town, as well as his cultural legacy. Hallein is in the fortunate position to possess the three autographs, the authentic documentation, Gruber’s diary, letters and portraits, as well as Joseph Mohr’s guitar.

The regional museum in Mariapfarr in Lungau was completely redesigned and expanded and is open after the anniversary year 2018 as well. Its focus lies on the pilgrimaging tradition in Mariapfarr, whilst, at the same time, taking a look at pilgrimaging in other cultures and religions, as well as at the topic of peace. This includes a presentation of the various stages in the life of Joseph Mohr, who wrote the original “Silent Night” poem in Mariapfarr in 1816.

The Salzburg Museum, on the other hand, prepared a special exhibition, which engaged the history, message and the present circumstances of the song in six different parts, corresponding to the six different verses of “Silent Night”.

Fügen in the Tirolean Zillertal Valley, where the international dissemination of the song began, used the occasion of the anniversary for a large special exhibition at Fügen Castle and the local Museum Fügen. Under the title “The Sounds of the Alps”, the two establishments took a close look at the history of the Tirolean national singers and the development of the “Valley of Music” — from the 18th century to today.

In Hintersee, where Joseph Mohr lived between 1827 and 1837, the Joseph Mohr Memorial Path was developed and is open to Visitors after the anniversary year 2018 as well. Starting at the Joseph Mohr Memorial Chapel built in 2016, memorial plaques remind of Mohr’s time in Hintersee. Art and sound installations amid the natural world invite visitors to dwell a little longer.

Arnsdorf, on the other hand, focused on engaging educational programmes about everyday school life in the 19th century and was collaborating with Theater Holzhausen to create a theatrical educational project for young people.

Hochburg-Ach, Franz Xaver Gruber’s place of birth, still tells the story of the weaver’s son’s early years and his musical training in the Franz Xaver Gruber Memorial House (still open after the anniversary year 2018).

The national exhibition’s thematic representation was a ten-pointed star on a magenta-coloured foundation, folded from the song’s sheet music. The star was also the advertising campaign’s central symbol and its nine points represented the nine participating locations. The logo began to promote the national exhibition on posters and banners, in print products and through media collaborations across the Province of Salzburg and in the bordering regions already in late summer 2018.

Poster – Silent Night Exhibition

As a companion for the 200 years’ anniversary of “Silent Night! Holy Night!”, the app „Paths to Silent Night” offered a comprehensive collection of stories around the world’s most widespread Christmas carol, its origin, dissemination, and its message and relevance for today.

The app allowed both locals and guests to discover the 13 Silent Night towns and the museums of the Salzburg State Exhibition and its treasures. They followed the winding paths and stories of the song throughout Upper Austria, the SalzburgerLand, and Tirol. The empathetic texts were not only informative for adults but also a joy for reading them to children.
With the APP, users found out everything about the fate of the song’s authors – Joseph Mohr und Franz Xaver Gruber – and gathered all six verses of the original version of the carol. It was also possible to share own personal peace messages with the world.

By applying an innovative location-based technology, guests were notified about the app via push messages when they came across frequented places or Silent Night locations. If a user had already downloaded the app, he or she was be automatically notified about interesting Silent Night stories via Bluetooth, depending on his/her location.

Paths to Silent Night App

Review – 200 Years Silent Night — the Sound of the Alps

Special exhibition at Fügen Castle, Tirol

Across 1,500 square metres and in more than 30 rooms, the decentralised national exhibition in Fügen’s Baroque Castle focused on the global dissemination of the Air Tirolien, the world peace song “Silent Night”, the Tirolean national singing tradition and thus the creation of the “Valley of Music” between the 18th century and today — both in an international as well as a Tirolean context.

The exhibition’s curators were Dr Sandra Hupfauf and Martin Reiter, who also contributed most of the exhibits. The overall coordination was in the hands of Hannes Pramstraller, whilst exhibition design and construction were handled by Stefan Lechner and Tobias Reitmeir from the advertising and design agency Rosa und Leni OG in Mayrhofen. It was primarily Tirolean travelling merchants, entertainers and singing families from the Zillertal valley who carried the rather simple song “Silent Night”, countless other folk songs and alpine culture around the world, helping the Alps become and remain an unmissable travel destination to this day. This summed up the thread that connected the pieces in the exhibition. The exhibitors’ goal and motto were: “Immersion instead of observation!” The visitors were invited to participate and immerse themselves fully. Some of the questions were: Why are Tiroleans so funny? Who are the Tirolean national singers and what do they have to do with the famous Christmas song “Silent Night”? What about the Rainer Singers’ scandals in England and America? These and many other questions were answered by the special exhibition “200 Years Silent Night — the Sound of the Alps” in Fügen Castle. Visitors could even take up some “Tramplan” dancing and yodelling lessons, enjoy a “Gstanzln” mocking song or two, put on a Tirolean hat and walk through the setting of a “Heimatfilm” or made their way through the “Hall of the Fame” of the best-known local folk music stars.

Fügen Castle and the Museum at Widumspfiste in Fügen 

Review – Christmas Singing

200 Years “Silent Night”, 135 years “Es wird scho glei dumper”: On the history of Christmas song culture in Upper Austria

On the occasion of the 200th anniversary in 2018 of the popular Christmas song “Silent Night” and the 135th anniversary of “Es wird scho glei dumper”, the reference to Upper Austria regarding these two internationally popular songs was shown in a special exhibition. It portrayed well-known and less-known pastoral and nativity songs from Upper Austria. Recently produced musical examples complemented the predominantly archival objects and brought the Upper Austrian song culture to the stage. In cooperation with the Upper Austrian Volksliedwerk, curated by Dr. Klaus Petermayr.

Schlossmuseum Linz |

Review – “Silent Night! Holy Night!” – Christmas Exhibition at the Museum Innviertler Volkskundehaus in Ried

The Christmas Exhibition at the Museum Innviertler Volkskundehaus in Ried im Innkreis was dedicated to the creation story of what is likely the most famous Christmas song in the world, “Silent Night”. The centre stage was taken by the original nativity scene in front of which the song was performed for the first time in 1818. On the occasion of the 200th anniversary in 2018, the nativity scene — one of the most important exhibits at the museum in Ried — was fully refurbished and newly assembled.

Museum Innviertler Volkskundehaus |

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