The Municipal Museum of Hofgeismar

The Hofgeismar Municipal Museum was founded in 1938 and was then named "Heimatmuseum" (i.e. regional museum), featuring exhibits of the town´s collection of objects concerning local history and geography; it is the oldest among the museums existing in the county. Since 1986 it has been housed in a complex of four buildings, located on Petriplatz, a highly attractive domicile of great architectural and historical interest. The complex was erected between about 1500 and 1820/40 and served as living quarters, stables, and barns; now it is the home of 15 different exhibits, each representing a special subject matter, but all of them interrelated within a network of more general fields. The wide range of exhibits is due to intensive collecting on the part of museum staff on the one hand and to close cooperation with neighboring museums in the Kassel area on the other, thus avoiding thematic overlapping among the museums of the region.

The first of the four buldings to be used as a museum in 1986 was the halftimbered house, which the visitor now enters through a spacious hall, frequently featuring special exhibits and displays. Part of the groundfloor is dedicated to the memory of Theodor Rocholl (1854-1933), who was trained to be a painter of battle-scenes, but later won renown as a painter of horses and landscapes. The museums owns approximately 650 original Rocholl works; about 90 of these are on permanent display. The Hofgeismar Municipal Museum has become a center of research on this "Düsseldorf" painter.

The history of ceramics in the region is another focus of interest of the museum; as a result displays of objects illustrating primeval and early history and village pottery have been made accessible to the public. In 1986 the museum inherited the autodocumentation of the internationally renowned ceramist Rolf Weber (1907-1985). This collection comprises about 800 objects and has led to the works of Esther Müller-Späth, who conducts a ceramics workshop in the museum.

The upper floor of this building is dedicated to important stages in the history of the town, including Schöneberg castle and the castle and stud-farm of Beberbeck. The highlights of this department are two special exhibitions, one describing the history of Hofgeismar as a garrison, dating back 750 years, but coming to an end in 1993, the other illustrating the history the Hugenots and Waldenses.

The latter is the most extensive one of all the collections in the museum. It consists, without exception, of original objects and retraces the historical development since the early moments of the Reformation in France; it describes the Wars of Religion in that country, the persecution of the Huguenots and Waldenses, their flight, and the settling of the refugees in Hessen-Kassel, Denmark, and Brandenburg-Prussia. One example of how Huguenot traditions have stayed alive is the "Mayence" exhibit, a scenic display coming from Kelze, one of the four French settlements on Hofgeismar soil. The collection of almost 200 different Reformed editions of the Bible in French language, covering a period of five centuries, is very rare in the world.

"Minorities" have always been high on the list of priorities of the museum (to the point that it was awarded the prize for special cultural achievements by the Hessian provincial government in 1991); in 1990 a new department was therefore added to the museum, the subject-matter being "Jewish Culture in Nothern Hessen". It illustrates the history of the Jewish communities in and around Kassel, their growth, their religious life (part of this in so called "scenic displays"), and their destruction; a wide range of different aspects are dealt with: social history, history of religion, local political issues, and architectural features. A library and archives are integrated into this department and the approximately 2000 volumes of Judaica literature are made available for research to all scholars interested in this matter.

The main building (of late classicistic architecture) houses a number of collections concerning the history of our town: the history of "Economics and Guilds" in the region (containing the oldest existing document of guilds in the region), the history of social clubs ("Silberner Hirsch" of 1652), and the history of "Hofgeismar as a Spa" between 1639 and 1866; among the numerous objects illustrating the latter theme is a model of the size of 220x333cm. A number of rooms (on the ground floor) are dedicated to "Important citizens of Hofgeismar", among them Wilhelm Hugues (1905-1971), whose complete legacy of sculptoral and graphic works could be acquired by the museum in 1986.

The visitor finds a number of libraries and archives on special fields of interest integrated into the museum, but there are also rooms for repose or for quiet reading as well as lecture-rooms and class-rooms; at a bookstall books on regional history, prints, and volumes of historical value can be aquired.

The museum in its entirety is the property of the municipality of Hofgeismar.