Zug, 23.11.2020

Finds and pictures tell stories

The Museum of Prehistory(s) is presenting a new special exhibition: an Albert Anker painting hereby plays a role.

In this multimedia age, institutions that want to show their "treasures" to lots of people have to come up with something – and this includes the Zug Museum of Prehistory (Museum für Urgeschichte), where the special exhibition "Picture Stories" (Bildergeschichten) opened on Sunday. Thanks to many loans from other Swiss museums, artistic representations of the last three centuries of life in prehistoric times are juxtaposed with current scientific illustrations.

Museum director Ulrich Eberli, who will present the five thematic blocks in a guided tour, explains: "All the images have been reinterpreted on the basis of current scientific knowledge." People in every epoch have tried to imagine what life used to be like. The paintings of the time usually show ideals that were typical for their time, but the real life situation of the people depicted was much harsher, however. The museum team and the Atelier Bunterhund have created a connection here between the historical works of art and archaeological images of life that provides a different view of the past.

Prehistoric life was much harder
What do you think Zugerland looked like in the time of the pile builders (Pfahlbauer)? Perhaps as can be seen on the digital illustration of the Riedmatt area – deserted, but with meadows, forests and the lake. Ulrich Eberli says with a laugh: "In a creative act, we have tried to show the local landscape in its original state." Eberli is particularly proud of the two original paintings by Albert Anker, ‘Die Pfahlbauerin’ (1873) and ‘Der Pfahlbauer’ (1886). These idealistic motifs were created after the sensational discovery of the pile buildings (Pfahlbauen) in Lake Zurich in 1854. The woman is thereby depicted as a caring mother, and the father as the hunter and breadwinner, which was the traditional understanding of their roles that corresponded to the spirit of the time, but hardly to the reality of prehistoric times. They are now contrasted with a graphic re-interpretation, in which the woman works outdoors. Eberli is convinced that it took all their strength to ensure survival. The finds of rudimentary tools used by the pile builders are also exhibited.

Two original paintings by Albert Anker are among the highlights of the exhibition. Museum director Ulrich Eberli (left) and restorer Giacomo Pegurri hang "Die Pfahlbauerin".

Other exhibits deal with metallurgy, such as bronze casting, while another is dedicated to the myth of the Celtic warriors, where, in addition to old pieces of jewellery,  Charles Gleyre's painting "Römer unter dem Joch (Romans under the yoke)" from 1858 is presented, showing the victorious Helvetians. "Steine für die Ewigkeit (Stones for Eternity)" focuses on monuments and dolmens that still provide puzzles today. Interesting here is the historic stone box, which was used as a community grave.

Archaeology requires a lot of fine work
If you are thinking of archaeologists along the lines of "Indiana Jones", you will find these in the "Abenteuer Archäologie (Archaeology Adventure) ". But the exhibit is not about the film, but about the work of the experts, which begins with digging and ends with time-consuming fine work. Finds from the last excavations in Zug are shown in the display case. How the archaeologists succeed in creating an image of the past from today's point of view can be seen in the art space, using the example of Hünenberg Castle, in which the reconstruction steps become comprehensible. There is also room for the creativity of the visitors.

Families are specifically addressed: an interactive tour for children, with exciting stations, leads through the exhibition. In addition to discovering the treasures, children can try their hand at bronze crafts, such as how the Celts created clothes and jewellery.

The idea for the new theme came from the museum director. "There are universal issues, such as death/burial or nutrition. The inclusion of the images makes it possible to compare them with today's findings." The preparations took a year, and about a dozen museums or offices have loaned pictures or finds. According to Eberli, the museum is visited by around 200 school classes every year, and is enjoyed by families: "Perhaps this time we will even appeal to art lovers, who will be able to look at Anker's paintings in a different way afterwards. With the new media, we can convey a topic in an entertaining way."

Due to the Corona restrictions, the official opening act was cancelled on Sunday, but short tours and the portrait painting are taking place.

Bildergeschichten (Picture stories) at the Museum of Prehistory,' Hofstrasse 15, Zug, until 2nd May 2021, Tuesdays - Sundays, 2 p.m.-5 p.m.. Details and updates can be found on www.urgeschichte-zug.ch