Living history in Herbstein

Recently, the opening of the exhibition at the Statt-Museum Herbstein on the occasion of the 101st birthday of Karolina Ruhl, née Oswald, was celebrated.

The museum was very busy at the opening of the exhibition. Photo: Rühl

HERBSTEIN – The opening of the exhibition at the Herbstein Art Museum on the occasion of the 101st birthday of Karolina Ruhl, née Oswald, was recently celebrated. About 70 visitors gathered on the top floor and were welcomed by the first president, Josef Michael Ruhl. After a word of welcome from city councilor Michael Kokesch, who replaced ailing mayor Bernhard Ziegler, Uwe Scherzer set the musical tone with his clarinet through selected pieces from ten decades.

The story of the last century is lovingly illustrated from the biography of Karolina Ruhl, who died seven years ago. Compiled, collected and preserved by his daughter Maria Magdalena Ruhl and his second youngest son, Josef Michael Ruhl, who organized a detailed compilation with the help of his children Asta and Zarah. A very illustrated chronology of his life, the most important stages, a childhood with ten brothers and sisters, his single mother ran a grocery store and a restaurant. Additionally, the family, like almost everyone in Herbstein, operated a farm in the early 20th century. Like her sister Rosa, who was three years older than her, Karolina Ruhl learned tailoring from Miss Fries in Lauterbach and proved to be very skilled. Unfortunately, she was not allowed to start her studies to become a technical teacher in Darmstadt in 1941, because her work was urgently needed at home. As one of the first marriages after the war, Karolina Rosa Oswald married Antonius Josef Ruhl from Breite Straße in May 1946. The locksmith and seamstress maintained a small secondary “farming”, as was customary at that time and in this region. Her growing family with five children was of course embroidered, sewn and dressed by hand. She also did commissioned work for her neighbors while her husband maintained and repaired the sewing machines. The children barely took off, and out of the house (work, training and studies), her husband Anton died suddenly and unexpectedly. To deal with grief, her deepest passion – craftsmanship – again took up a lot of space in her life “Sewing and craftsmanship is for me the most beautiful and satisfying activity to date” – a quote from the third edition of the biography – written by Ursel Arndt. The Berliner and yarn artist herself contributed a few works of art to the exhibition and asked the group who learned to knit from Karolina Ruhl, as she ran a “children’s knitting workshop” for more than 20 years. Over time, Karolina Ruhl received dusty, broken and thrown away dolls, which she lovingly washed, repaired and dressed. These 500 resurrected doll personalities formed the basis of their doll museum, which opened in 1990. She opened her home on Hessenstrasse to any interested visitor, who was greeted with coffee and cake and told stories as they were shown around his house. Countless thank you files for their hospitality testify to this.

Their stories are beautifully told in the current exhibition through artist and architect Josef Michael Ruhl’s arrangement and installation with/through the puppets. Currently, however, conversely, her dolls watch their lives and are not watched. It is remarkable that the contemporary history of Herbstein in the region comes to life in the very privately compiled and published documents.

The Herbstein Museum is open every Sunday from 2 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. There are special opening times for groups by telephone agreement.

The recently revised third edition of her biography “visiting Karolina Ruhl” by Ursel Arndt, Berlin, has been published to accompany the exhibition; can be bought for 15 euros in the museum. On the occasion of International Museum Day 2022, the Statt-Museum Herbstein showed with this exhibition how liveliness can enter a museum: people meet, celebrate conviviality, spark inspiring conversations over coffee and de Krappel in the museum garden. A successful start to the CULTURAL year to come”, rejoices Josef Michael Ruhl.

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