Frankfurt museum houses a trove of historical collections
By MICHAEL ABRAMS | STARS AND STRIPES Published: December 7, 2016
The Historisches Museum Frankfurt is a quirky little museum on the north bank of the Main River — quirky because of its rather eclectic collection of collections willed to the museum by patrons.
Work on a recent renovation and a new wing due to open in 2017 uncovered a trove of artifacts from the Staufer dynasty, which ruled the German-Roman kingdom from 1138 to 1254. Some of those items, such as sewer pipes and water basins, are on display. That part of the exhibit on the museum’s lower floor also features replicas of the crown, orb and scepter of the rulers of the Holy Roman Empire.
But the museum’s main focus is the exhibition “Frankfurt Collectors and Donors.” Climb the old spiral staircase — it survived World War II mostly intact — up thorough the building and you pass a cornucopia of paintings, books, porcelain and more donated by collectors to the museum.
Twelve collectors donated to the museum between the 17th and 20th centuries. Each collection is displayed in its own room. Check out the armor and weapons donated by Christian Alexander Fellner or Wilhelm Kratz’s grand faience collection. The museum bought the collection from Kratz’s widow in 1952.
The Eduard Rueppell collection is mostly artifacts from Africa. Rueppell was a world traveler interested in natural history and Africa. Several other museums in Frankfurt have items collected by Rueppell, including the Senckenberg natural history museum.
A noteworthy aspect of the Johann Martin Waldschmidt collection is one of its three globes. It is supposedly the first to depict a land mass called Amerika.
An interesting part of the museum is the Rententurm, or Toll Tower. Once part of the toll house where people crossing the Main had to pay a levy, it houses the clockwork that still runs the tower’s timekeeper.
At one fascinating display, you turn a dial to a desired time and push the buttons to hear how the bells on churches and municipal buildings surrounding the museum sound. Even the night watchman, who patrolled from the 15th to 18th centuries, can be heard calling out.
In the murky base of the tower you also can see the high water marks the Main has reached during flooding over the centuries.
Another museum highlight are the oversized models of Frankfurt. One shows the area surrounding the Dom (cathedral), while another depicts the museum when all the construction is done. But the main attraction is the model of the city in the year 1926, before its World War II destruction. It was built by Robert and Hermann Treuner between 1925 and 1961 in a scale of 1:200. Here you can see that Frankfurt’s old town center was — even in the 20th century — one of Europe’s most well-preserved medieval cities.
Historisches Museum Frankfurt
The museum is located at Fahrtor 2, 60311 Frankfurt am Main. Nearest parking is the Dom/Roemer garage at Domstrasse 1. On public transportation, take subway U4 or U5 to Dom/Roemer stop, or trams 11 or 12 to Roemer/Paulskirche. It’s about a five-minute walk across the Roemerberg (central square with old city hall) to the museum.
10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesdays to Sundays, 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Wednesdays. Closed Mondays and on Christmas Eve.
Admission is 7 euros (about $7.50) for adults and 3.50 euros for children ages 6 and older, free for younger children. A family ticket (two adults and up to four children) is 15 euros, and one adult and up to four children costs 8 euros. The Dom garage costs 2 euros per hour, 1 euro per hour on Sundays and German holidays.
There are plenty of places to eat in downtown Frankfurt. If you want hearty German fare, try Haus Wertheym across the street.
The museum’s website is www.historisches-museum-frankfurt.de; click on the “E” at the top of the page for the English site.