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Early plastics – The collection of cultural theorist Eva Stille

Review – August 18, 2012 to March 31, 2013

The first cabinet exhibition of the Historical Museum on the upper floor of the Staufer Chapel in the Saalhof is dedicated to objects made of a very special material: things made of plastic from the Eva Stille Collection.

Plastic entered the German vernacular at the beginning of the 20th century: the organ of German plastics trade associations propagated it in the magazine "Kunststoffe". What was meant by this were the materials that were newly created from chemically transformed natural substances or produced entirely synthetically. Today, it is impossible to imagine our everyday lives without plastics – an they are sometimes perceived as an excessive burden, sine some plastics cause lasting damage to the environment.

This was not always the case: artificially produced materials began to gain acceptance over 140 years ago. Whether buttons or belt buckles made of galalith or celluloid – the new materials offered inexpensive alternatives to natural materials such as ivory or mother-of-pearl. Objects made of plastic permeated everyday life on a grand scale and widened the circle of social participation in useful and beautiful things. The further development of plastics made it possible to establish entirely new aesthetic categories in the world of consumption and goods. It is also impossible to imagine the world of technical inventions without materielas such as Bakelite. In short, plastics conquered our society in the 20th century.
Eva Stille's collection illustrates the fascination that the new materials had and still have today: the colorful variety of everyday objects procides an impressive insight into the beginnings of the plastic age. The more than 600 objects have belonged to the HMF since 2009; in the exhibition we are showing a selection of over 130 exhibits. As a collector, the Frankfurt resident by choice was also a curator, as she also devoted herself to researching the objects in order to use them to create exhibitions or and with museums. As early as 1960, Eva Stille began to systematically build up collections of objects from eveyday history – often at flea markets. She specialized in areas such as toys, fashion and housework, Christmas tree decorations and, of course, early plastics.
Eva Stille has worked with the HMF for many years on joint exhibition projects, which eventually led to the first cabinet exhibitions. The exhibition on the Stille plastics collection marks the beginning of a series that will present other collectors at regular intervals. In this way, the cabinet exhibitions are closely linked to the large permanent exhibition "Frankfurter Sammler und Stifter" (Frankfurt Collectors and Donors), which presents twelve different collector personalities from Frankfurt and their typical collecting preferences of the time: be it collecting as an appropriation of the world, for bourgeois representation, or, as in the case of Eva Stille, as a curatorial activity.

Foreigners to Frankfurters – Migration and integration

Review – Permanent Exhibition May 19, 2004 to March 27, 2011
Since the end of the 1990s, the topic of migration has been present in various projects of the Historical Museum and has been a focal point of its educational work. Between 2004 and 2011, the permanent presentation of the history of migration in Frankfurt helped to send a signal to the current and widespread migration society and to understand migration as part of the city's history.
There is actually no such thing as a typical Frankfurter, since many Frankfurt residents are not descended from long-established families. In 2004, the 650,000 inhabitants of Frankfurt belonged to 185 different nationalities; almost every third inhabitant had no German citizenship.
„From Strangers to Frankfurters" aimed to raise awareness of immigration to Frankfurt and the coexistence of Frankfurt residents and immigrants as well as their integration into urban society in the past and present. On the historical side, for example, the focus was on the migration movements of religious refugees in earlier centuries, who found a place of refuge in Frankfurt and thus contributed to the growth of Frankfurt's population.
In the 20th century, it was primarily political and economic reasons that brought many people to Frankfurt as expellees, displaced persons, refugees from the Republic or as so-called guest workers. Their lives, living and working conditions were the subject of the exhibition. The focus was also on associations that provided support and still do today, for example to reintegrate migrants into the work process or to help women who had fallen into prostitution.
While the topics of the first part of the exhibition were conveyed on large panels with pictures and texts, the second part of the exhibition primarily featured objects of memory, supplemented by interviews with contemporary witnesses. Exhibits such as photographs, posters, employment contracts or personal mementos provided insights into various life and work situations.
The exhibition also provided space for the "Meeting Place of Cultures" and the "Migration Gallery". Over the years, an extensive supporting program with readings, discussion evenings or smaller exhibitions took place here, which was supported by numerous cooperation partners (e.g. Internationales Familienzentrum e.V., Caritas Stadtmitte or the JBS Anne Frank).
Currently, the HMF is transforming itself into the city museum of the Main metropolis, presenting Frankfurt both in its historical significance and with its current topics. In the new Museum, we understand migration as a cross-cutting theme and as part of the cultural diversity whose traces we follow in history and the present. It is therefore fitting that some of the objects from the exhibition "From Strangers to Frankfurters" could be incorporated into the collection.
"From Strangers to Frankfurters" was created in cooperation with the Office for Multicultural Affairs, the Museum of World Cultures and with the Support of the Gemeinnützige Hertie-Stiftung.
Curator: Roland Hoede M.A. / Terra Incognita e.V.
Supporting program: Wolf von Wolzogen