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Vienna Museum Karlsplatz

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While the term 'Vienna Museum' refers to a loose group of inter-disciplinary museums and collections ran by the City Council of Vienna itself, the most interesting of these sites for visitors is probably the outpost at Karlsplatz. The museum chronicles the past, present and future of Vienna, all the way from its humble origins as a Neolithic settlement, its rise as an outpost of the Roman Empire and as an Imperial capital, all the way through to the city we know today.

The Vienna Museum Karlsplatz was established in 1887, though for much of the centre's history it was located in a small and unassuming corner of the Rathaus, Vienna's stately town hall. Though there were plans for a separate museum dedicated to the city since the early 20th century, when Otto Wagner proposed a building on Karlsplatz, the present museum dates from as recently as 1959, and was built in a stark, modern style by architect Oswald Haertl. Despite the somewhat drab exterior, frequent renovations and alterations have ensured the interior rooms remain sleek and modern, ideal spaces in which to exhibit the diverse range of exhibitions that take place here.

Collections and events at Karlsplatz tend to include a mix of art and historical items, such as archaeological finds from the Roman settlement of Vindobona, stained glass windows from city churches, weapons from Vienna's Civilian Arsenal, as well as ancient maps and old illustrations depicting Vienna as it would have looked in times gone by. Some of the finest permanent exhibits here are the restored apartment and actual furnishings of Austrian poet Franz Grillparzer, reconstructed within the museum, as well as huge scale models of Vienna showing the conurbation before and after the construction of the Ringstrasse.

Elsewhere visitors will find some of the most highly valued examples of Austrian art, including works from radical artists such as Gustav Klimt, Egon Schiele and Arnold Schonberg. Klimt's early works in particular are rare pieces highlighting his development as a painter in the years before he became a successful and much loved artist. Earlier paintings can also be found here, with decadent canvases from painters such as Rottmayr and Maulbertsch hanging on the walls of the museum, showcasing art from Vienna's graceful period of Baroque splendour. Frequent exhibitions highlight a more modern side to the Austrian capital, with contemporary retrospectives, multi-cultural events and an ever revolving display from the archives ensuring there is always something fresh and new on offer.

Adjacent to the Karlsplatz centre, and in the heart of the square itself is the Otto Wagner Pavilion, dedicated to the life and work of Vienna's finest architect. Housed in one of Wagner's Art Nouveau Stadtbahn stations, this wonderful museum exhibits blueprints and early drafts to many of Wagner's greatest buildings, including the Steinhof church and the Postsparkassenamt. Letters and pamphlets authored by Wagner, highlighting his architectural philosophy, and his ground-breaking ideas on design, also abound in this jewel of the Vienna cultural scene. Yet the building itself, flooded with light and decorated with fine wrought-iron and gold-leaf etchings, is the real highlight of this attraction.


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