About the University Museum
The University Museum is located on the ground floor of the Old University, in the three rooms where the collections of Natural History were kept around the year 1800. The walk through the history of the University is divided chronologically into the era of the Electors of the Palatinate (room A), the Baden time (room B), and the 20th century (room C).
The time of Palatinate rule (1386–1786) is illustrated by portraits of electors who played an important role in the University’s history; the paintings were made available by the Palatinate Museum of the City of Heidelberg (“Kurpfälzisches Museum”). Additionally, facsimiles of records from the University archives and the Bibliotheca Palatina document the foundation of the University and the economic situation, teaching, and studying during the early times. The most important exhibits from the time of Palatinate rule are the sceptres of the University and the Faculty of Arts, which are highlights of mediaeval goldsmith’s art.
In 1803 Heidelberg University became a Baden state university. Portraits, cover pictures, and students’ pipes capture a feeling of departure and romanticism. The establishment of the natural sciences is illustrated by two display cases containing tools and instruments that belonged to scientists Helmholtz, Kirchhoff, and Bunsen. In 1886 the University celebrated its 500 years anniversary with a magnificent celebration in the presence of the Crown Prince and the Grand Ducal family, which is illustrated by several photographs and documents.
The last room starts with an overview of the circles around Max Weber and Stefan George – circles in which women played an increasingly important role. Next are portraits of important pro-democracy professors during the time of the Weimar Republic. Several exhibits document the activities of the natural sciences departments and the University’s building authority, as well as the fact that women were studying at the University – in 1925, Heidelberg was far above the German average, with 15% of its students being women.
The years from 1933 to 1945 take up a lot of space: many members of the University were expelled for racial and political reasons. In 1936 the University’s 550 years anniversary was celebrated in the presence of prominent national socialist leaders. The recommencement after 1945 was influenced by people like Karl Jaspers, who called for a “moral new beginning”, and surgeon and founder of the German Cancer Research Center, Karl Heinrich Bauer: “Under the robes there’s a thousand years worth of stuffiness…” The history of the University continues to be turbulent, even though in the museum it ends with its 600 years anniversary in 1986 … for the time being.
Parallel to the rooms of the permanent exhibition is a room for changing exhibitions where new special exhibitions covering a wide range of topics are opened every three to four months. These exhibitions bear witness to the great commitment of groups of students and citizens and to the various research activities and areas of interest that characterise the University and the city of Heidelberg. Be it musicians, marionettes, or manuscripts: come and see!