Museum Roter Haubarg

Historical Museum, Schleswig-Holstein, 2023
Services: scenography, exhibition design, media planning, media production, project management 
Categories: exhibition

Haubargs are often called the largest farmhouses in the world. This iconic type of house with its pyramid-shaped roof originated in the late 17th century and is typical of the Eiderstedt region in German North Frisia. The history of the Haubarg is characterized by the peculiar landscape in which it is embedded, a landscape shaped by water in many forms and wrested from the sea through the laborious construction of embankments. Of the few remaining contemporary examples of this historic farmhouse, the Roter Haubarg near Witzwort is the only one open to the public today.

Catharina Asmussen, the proprietor at the time, donated the Roter Haubarg to the district of North Frisia at the beginning of the 20th century, and it has housed a local history museum since the 1980s. Surrounded by a generously spaced park-like garden, there is also a restaurant in the former living quarters of the building.

Our objective was to develop a concept for the new permanent exhibition that thematizes the architecture in its environmental, economic, and historical context. The challenge was to make the rather abstract and intangible contexts accessible and to allow visitors to directly experience the place, the architecture, and the atmosphere of the Roter Haubarg. We developed a concept that lets the architecture tell its own story. To uncover the essence and let the house’s aura unfold its magic, we decided against the use of information panels; instead, we prominently positioned several exhibits – characteristic agricultural tools – in the space, each establishing a relationship to one of the exhibition themes.

The new permanent exhibition in the historic Roter Haubarg is a living microcosm in which the exhibits tell their stories, and the centuries-old timberwork laughs and speaks. The staging in the exhibition extends over the interconnected spaces of the “Loo” or threshing room, the “Vierkant” with its 17-meter-high post-and-beam structure once filled to the brim with hay and straw, and the mezzanine, where the grain was stored.

The central medium of the new exhibition is a spatial staging as an audio play or site-specific theater, which is directly derived from the architecture and the exhibits in terms of content, aesthetics, and form. The historical building is both the stage and the subject of the production; the visitors are invited on a journey through ancient times to learn about the rise, the heyday, and the decline of the Haubargs. The Roter Haubarg and some selected objects like the butter barrel, the hoof scraper, or the flail get their voice and bring the Haubarg’s history to life in mutual conversations.

As part of the sound design, we captured the individual sound characteristics of various exhibits with microphones. To create immersive atmospheres of concrete places from the surroundings, we made field recordings with a 3D microphone at different times of the day and of the year. The staging is complemented by a booklet you can take home. Conceived as a Haubarg-lexicon, information on relevant keywords such as “Klootstock” or “Reetdachnadel” can be looked up. Of course, the protagonists of the production can also be found here.

In addition, the Roter Haubarg himself is always happy to give its guests a personal guided tour of its garden. Equipped with headphones, you can scan the QR codes mounted on the benches while strolling through the garden and learn a lot from the host, such as the strange mounds of earth and water holes that characterize the surrounding landscape. What, at first glance, looks like an ordinary audio guide is an immersive sound experience with spatial audio, in which the listener is not isolated from the surroundings but can experience the place and the stories in the form of augmented reality.

The new exhibition is due to open in October 2023.

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