History festivals may be the way forward to “sell” history in a serious yet popular manner
The Historiale in Berlin has the ambition to be the largest historical festival in Europe. Since 2006 The foundation behind this festival has been the driving force behind a magnificent staged series of events focusing on a wide variety of themes, from “Napoleon in Berlin” to “Haupstadt der Spione”. This year the Historiale celebrates the 775 anniversary of Berlin from the 20th to the 26th of August with a huge mixture of musical events, theatre-performances, lectures, public debates plus guided tours and much more. At the end of the week there will be a large parade where people who are willing to dress up can take part.
A significant part of this takes place around the Nikolaikircheviertel where there is also a marketplace. In the Nikolaikirche itself an exhibition tells the story of this 800-year old building and the personalities, who lived and worked there. At the same time eight small exhibitions along the former city walls show the results from excavations which were carried out in connection with work on the Metro.
However, the gate to the festival is the exhibition in the Berlin Museum where the changing fortunes of the city are told through a combination of multimedia installations, audioguides etc. For the really interested it might be worthwhile to start out by visiting the City Museum of Berlin (Märkisches Museum) where amongst other fascinating thing large models of the historical city from its early beginnings may be studied in detail. For the medieval buff the museum in itself is interesting: the building is more than a 100 years old and in full-blown “historismus” style with a tower built out of red brick and a “Gothic Chapel” with a remarkable collection of medieval sculptures; all newly restored to its former grandeur. At the Museum annex at Ephraim-Palais there is a special exhibition “Berlinmakers ‘n’ shakers. 775 Portraits – One Network” which showcases seven hundred present-day and seventy-five historical figures. Their stories shed light both on the lives of Berliners and also on the uniqueness of Berlin.
Tired of all the noise and jostling from more than 100.000 guests and participants? Maybe it is time to take the train out South and visit one of Berlin’s more hidden gems: The village of Düppel (Museumsdorf Düppel). Here guests can experience a medieval village complete with a fully-fledged farm cultivated with traditional three-year rotation and showcasing old grains as well as medieval gardens. On Sundays volunteers enliven the place with their handcrafts. All scientifically well-documented in an orderly way. (The Museumsdorf is part of the Stadmuseum of berlin).
Accompanying this years “Festivale” is a book about “Berlin im Mittelalter”:
Berlin im Mittelalter: Berlin/Cölln unter den Askaniern. By Norbert F. W. Meier. Berlin Story / Alles Uber Berlin 2012