Art Without Borders: Street Museum in Vienna

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When you are a tourist in a city like Vienna it is sometimes hard to decide which of more than 100 museums to visit. Even the locals can’t really say that they are familiar with all the cultural sites in the city. Especially when entrance fees are required, people will choose a couple of places, and hence, miss seeing some of the important and attractive things that Vienna can offer. Therefore, readers should take note that the Peace Museum in Vienna is arranged in a different way – as a street museum, where all interested people, as well as passers-by, can see the exhibition free of charge.

The Museum consists of small indoor exhibition area in Blutgasse 3 and Windows for Peace-which is the first project in the world to exhibit Peace heroes on street windows, available to everyone. Peace heroes are influential figures throughout history that have devoted their life and career to fight for better future of all of us.

Liska Blodgett, president of PMV, tells us when and how she got an idea to open a Peace Museum: “About 1995 I went to Normandy and had a chance to visit Caen Peace Museum. It was a wakeup call about how we needed more Peace Museums in the world and we needed to think about Peace.  When I moved to Vienna I started to think about opening of Peace Museum. After I saw all the tourists on Domgasse and Blutgasse, I realized that we needed to have the exposure into a busy tourist neighborhood, so I tried to find a proper place and create the team to work on this idea.”

Windows for Peace opened in June 2014, on 100-year anniversary of dead of its main Peace hero Bertha von Suttner. Surprisingly, many people have not heard of her, even though she is the one to thank for existence of Nobel Peace Prize. She pursued Alfred Nobel to support International Peace Movement through creation of this prize. Bertha von Suttner was also the first women to get this prestigious award. Together with her, more than seventy Peace heroes are currently exhibited on windows in five streets in the first district of Vienna. Mrs. Blodgett remembers about the beginning, when PMV team tried to get a permission from neighbors to use their windows for outdoor Museum:” It was mostly very easy to get the neighbors. Some of them were so excited to be part of it, like the owner of the restaurant at corner of Blutgasse. Similar was with the other surrounding local businesses, churches and organizations. I would like to expand PMV in our neighborhood. However we need resources to do this, so our focus now has to be on fund raising. Beside this, PMV also has to fight with graffiti”.

Peace Museum Vienna has its door open for artists and other people who want to give their contribution to peace. Many interesting events were organized since its opening, such as Tibetan peace kitchen, International Day of Tolerance with UNESCO Club Vienna, International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women with exhibition “Do NOT Shut Up!” by Vivien Kabar, and many others.

Mr. Peter van den Dungen, the head and General Coordinator of the International Network of Museums for Peace supports Peace Museum Vienna: “I am admirer of PMV and its ‘Windows for Peace’ in the heart of Vienna. I was there for its festive opening in June. Liska Blodgett has been very creative and has hit on a great formula to expand peace education in a major and innovative way. The PMV is still an embryonic peace museum and needs support ,so that it will not only survive but can expand and flourish. A professional peace museum in the city, with Bertha von Suttner at its heart, would be a great tourist attraction and at the same time a great encouragement for people to join the peace movement. More than most other commemorations of the centenary of World War I, the creation of such a museum at this time would be a very appropriate way of remembering that war and learning lessons.”

There are many war museums, and war pictures in media are the most present nowadays. With its Peace heroes, tours, and various events Peace Museum Vienna educates the public that there are other alternatives besides war. It inspires the people to do something for peace, to be friendly and tolerant. Peace Museums are helping the change of rhetoric from war to peaceful one.

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