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Research Institute



Prof. Dr. Gunter Schöbel - museusm curator

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Museumsdirektor Prof. Dr. Gunter Schöbel

Peter Walter M.A.

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Peter Walter © Pfahlbaumuseum/Müller

Dr. Matthias Baumhauer

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Dr. Matthias Baumhauer




Short History of the Research Institute of Pre- and Early History

The providence of academic collaboration during the first days of the Museum’s existence had its roots in cooperation with the Prehistory Research Institute of the University Tübingen during the years 1921 – 1925. (Professor Dr. R.R. Schmidt, Assistants Hans Reinerth, and Georg Krafft). Building upon this cooperation, a fruitful collaboration under the guidance of Professor Dr. Hans Reinerth, followed with the Institutes for Pre- and Early History Universities of Tübingen (1931 – 1935), and Berlin (1935 – 1941).

Following these over two years spanning contacts, the Research Institute for Pre- and Early History at Lake Constance was founded on May 16, 1954 by Dr. Rudolf Maier, District Chief Executive, and Executive Chairman of the Society for Lake Dwelling Archeology and Regional Ethnology (Verein für Pfahlbau- und Heimatkunde e.V.), as a part of the Open Air Museum. Through a structural expansion of the Lake Dwelling Museum, it became possible to create the necessary workrooms and archives for the original collections and journals in 1953 and 1954 within the facilities of the Museum. The most valuable items originated from the private collection of the Uneruhldinger mayor, Georg Sulger.

The mission of the newly founded Research Institute was to develop a scientific foundation for the conveyance of pre- and early history of man, in particular the early history of the inhabitants in the Lake Constance region. The providing of access to scholarly results and resources was to serve the Institute’s publications, presentations, seminars, and occasional exhibits. Supporting the excavations undertaken by the institute itself and those undertaken by scientists not affiliated, as well as the further development of state-of-the-art research methods with their technical laboratories, were to benefit the foundations for the reconstructions in the Open Air Museum including the model workshop. In the founding year, the library was comprised of 3000 individual volumes and 2000 special prints. A photo laboratory, a drawing room, equipment for land and underwater excavations, as well as historically significant collections from the lake dwellings of the cultural regions of Lake Constance and Upper Swabingen, became part of the Research Institute.

Professor Dr. Hans Reinerth served as the Scientific Director of the Research Institute between 1954 and 1989. During the first year, Dr. Gerta Schneider (1945-1956), was employed as scientific research assistant, and Heinz Dürr, as scientific photographer and laboratory technician. In alternating activities, the first team was followed by Ms. Waltraud Grünewald responsible for technical design, Dr. Elisabeth Heinsius as honorary scientists, Ms. Irmgard Fernengel responsible for photography, and Mr. Josef Brunner in charge of the model workshop. Between 1954 – 1989, numerous private collectors and volunteers like Mr. Hermann Schiele, Fritz Sulger, Karl and Aribert Wiehler, Fritz Zimmermann, Erich Schultz, Alfons Beck, Bernhard Regenscheidt, and Helmut Maier supported the Museum’s undertakings through fieldwork and collection activities. The journals after 1952 „Vorzeit am Bodensee“ („Antiquity at Lake Constance“) and „Vorzeit“ („Antiquity“) published between 1963 – 1988, published by the Society for Lake Dwelling and Regional Ethnology (Pfahlbau- und Heimatkunde e.V. in Unteruhldingen) at Lake Constance and Hans Reinerth, include activity reports of the Society and the affiliated Research Institute.

History of Collections 1922 – 1989

The collections grew continuously through donations and acquisitions until 1989. Apart from the prehistoric finds and archives as well as the acquisitions for the library, also the acquisition of ethnological equipment and tools were significant for the establishment of the “Teutonic Farm” - as a component of the Unteruhldinger collection development policy, the farm had been planned for the expansion of the exhibition areas. Due to the shortage of space in the museum, the missing support, and increasing isolation of the Lake Dwelling Society and its scientific director on behalf of the authorities and universities, none of the planned exhibits of the constantly increasing collection could be realized in Unteruhldingen despite the efforts for new premises on behalf of the responsible Society. This situation led to the establishment of the external sites in Pfrungen am Ried, municipality Williamdorf, and later in Königseggwald at Ostrach, where collections packed in crates were stored in external storage facilities.

Exhibit boards, replicas, models, and plaster casts of prehistorical hut floors from excavations during the 1930s, were due to scarce space housed in provisional wooden huts, reconstructed lake dwellings, and in the private residence of the then scientific administrator Hans Reinerth. Even after his death in the spring of 1990, packed crates with valuable documentation – among others excavation reports, photo plates, and scientific scripts, were remaining at his residence. This valuable material had been moved from Berlin to Lake Constance in 1944 because of the fear that they would be destroyed during the bombing of the city.

The reorganization of the Lake Dwelling Society after 1987 under the direction of the Chairman Dr. Anton Paul, and in 1990 under the lead of Hans-Erwin Wende, brought about a younger scientific staff under the leadership of Dr. Gunter Schöbel, who commenced his work on 01.01.1990. Dr. Schöbel succeeded Professor Dr. Hans Reinerth, who had been responsible for the scientific administration of the Society, the Museum, and the Research Institute.

The restructuring of the Museum affected all departments. Joining as new staff members were Karin Weiner, M.A. as assistant for scientific research specializing in archeology (Pre- and Early History) (1990 – 1994), Tom Stern M.A. (1990 – 1992), Karl Banghard M.A. (1995 – 1996), Peter Walter M.A. (1997 to current), and Dr. Matthias Baumhauer (since 1997 to current).

The history of the Research Institute after 1990

The only partially recorded collections that were scattered in various places, could after the reconstruction finally be recorded comprehensibly and arranged appropriately into eight departments. Even currently, the work is not concluded, thus presenting an important and monumental research task for the future. Specially designated facilities accommodate this work during times when fewer visitors are at the Open Air Museum, mainly between October and March. The diversity of the culture-historical archive, the many shifting and relocations of the finds, results, and reports during World War II and afterwards, in conjunction with the claims for ownership by different institutions and private persons, demanded a work intensive sorting and recording of the inventory. The construction of a new museum building in 1996 with the appropriate state-of-the-art archival facilities and workspace provided the foundation for these tasks. To date, scientific technical staff is selected from among the tour guides and from the craftwork department, to be trained and qualified to support the work in the Research Institute mainly during the winter season. Aside from the three graduated archeologists, the Museum thus always has 10 to 12 qualified staff available for the work within the Research Institute. The responsibilities of the here employed staff consists of refurbishing, preserving, and expanding the Museum’s inventory according to the newest scientific realizations as a basis for the mediating tasks in the Open Air Museum in conformance with the Administration’s collection and development policies. The inventory represents an essential basis for lectures and publications, exhibitions, for the support of scientific work and research projects, for the membership in associations and institutions, for European networking in the context of European Union projects, and for cooperation with museums worldwide. These processes serve all together the goal of the Lake Dwelling Museum and its Research Institute to provide access to international scholarly resources.

The Research Institute is currently comprised of the following departments:

  • Archive of historical and prehistorical finds
  • Ethnological collection of the modern era
  • Excavations
  • Archive for scripts and written records
  • Library
  • Model workshop
  • Photo and Media Archive
  • Publications / Manuscripts / Lectures
According to its cultural responsibilities and its scholarly activities, the Lake Dwelling Museum Unteruhldingen together with its Research Institute has been ranked equal to the State Museums in Germany by decision of the Consulting and Support Centre for the Museums of Baden-Württemberg (Landesstelle für Museumsbetreuung des Landes Baden-Württembergs) on May 29, 2006. The Museum works according to the guidelines and quality standards of the German Council of Museums and the International Council of Museums ICOM. The Lake Dwelling Museum Unteruhldingen and the Society of Lake Dwelling and Regional Ethnology (Verein für Pfahlbau- und Heimatkunde e.V.) hold memberships and are actively in involved in numerous scientific committees and associations. Its publication organ is the Society's journal "Plattform", a scientific and ethnological oriented journal that has been published regularly since 1922. Members of the Museum Society and exchange partners at university, as well as scientific institutions, receive the journal free of charge.

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