New month, new GLAM Blog Club post! February went by so quickly I completely forgot to write something. To make up for it, I’m going to try and publish this blog as early in the month as possible. The theme for March is Happiness – i.e. what makes you happy? This is a huge theme to cover and consider, so I’m going to just focus on one moment where I felt nothing but happiness. Otherwise, we would be here all day. I say this because even on my bad days, I feel extremely grateful and happy to be working in an industry that is also something I’m passionate about.
My Moment of Happiness – Context
In 2012, I visited Weimar, Germany. This was partly because of my love for Bauhaus and partly because I wanted to travel to as many German cities as possible while studying over there. I had no idea just how much there was to see and do in this city. It is such a treasure trove of a place and it very quickly became my favourite city in the country, apart from Berlin. While there, I booked myself in for a tour of The Duchess Anna Amalia Bibliothek (Library).
A quick sidenote – Duchess Anna Amalia (full title Anna Amalia, Duchess of Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach) was one of these awesome females from the past that we don’t hear enough about. She strongly encouraged some of the best cultural minds of the 18th century to come to Weimar. This included Goethe and Schiller. Amalia would frequently hold round table discussions with these great minds transforming Weimar into the cultural hub of Germany. She arranged for all the courtly books to be moved to a purpose built library. Today, the library holds over one million significant cultural texts along with medieval manuscripts, musical scores, and maps. Unfortunately the old library building suffered extensive damage in 2004 due to a fire. Luckily, it has been rebuilt true to form and is now a World Heritage Site.
Obviously I am missing out quite a bit about this extraordinary woman so please, go and read more about her!
From the moment I walked through the door I was totally and completely in awe. Before going to the library itself, there was a small exhibition filled with amazing autograph books from the 1700s and 1800s. They were absolutely captivating and beautifully curated.
I thought this was a great idea to showcase part of the collection for those to see before heading into the library. The exhibition space changes from time to time ensuring that the rare objects all have their moment.
I was completely lost in the display and was jolted from my browsing by a front desk staff member telling me I could go through. It was a really quite period so I felt as though everyone coming through was getting the real VIP treatment.
Beauty and the Beast Moment
As we walked up the stairs anticipation was at an all time high. The beautiful wooden steps were only just the beginning. Just before entering the library, I was asked to take off my shoes and put on what I can only describe as giant grey moleskin slippers. I have ridiculously small feet for an adult and unfortunately they had run out of child-sized shoes.
Right from the beginning, you feel as though you were going to walk into a truly special place. After a quick talk from the staff member about why we were wearing the shoes (conservation requirements etc) I was left alone to open the door and walk through the library.
If you haven’t seen Beauty and the Beast (cartoon or live-action movie) then now is an ideal moment to take a break and watch some Disney. Or just quickly watch the scene below taken from Youtube.
So that moment when Belle walks into the Beast’s library for the first time is exactly how I felt. Like being hit in the face with knowledge – in a good way. Everything from the architecture to how the books were displayed was just magical.
Here is an image of the inside:
Disclaimer: in no way shape or form was the staff member who took me to the library like the Beast. She was very lovely and let me practice my German.
The whole library is designed in a Rococo-style. Basically, there was no such thing as “too much” when it came to Rococo. If you wanted your entire ceiling gold plated with huge murals covering every inch of the wall – that’s what you got. It is such a fun architectural style that is instantly recognisable.
The library wasn’t too over the top with Rococo-ness. It was a dialed back version with some guilding and elaborate additions. Enough to make you feel like you had stepped into a fairytale.
The reading room that can be used today is separate from the library. Due to the 2004 fire, a lot of the more rare manuscripts etc are kept in fire-safe cabinets underground. There are still a plethora of old-looking, beautifully spined books around the library for you to see (not touch). I had a wonderful time looking around and gawking at some of the books on offer.
Maybe I’m just a hopeless romantic and loved being temporarily transported into a Disney-filled world. Maybe having to move super slowly because I was worried my shoes would fall off forced me to spend more time appreciating every detail. Whatever the reason, I would say this is one of my happiest moments in a GLAM site.