Museum Rhein-Schauen at Lustenau/Austria

Dr. Gerda Leipold-Schneider

historian, museologist MAS

Museum Rhein-Schauen

Höchsterstraße 4, A-6893 Lustenau, Austria

The Rhein Observatory Museum documents the needs of people, who through countless floodings of the Rhein River, were especially affected in the last century. For the 100th Anniversary of the International Rhein Control, a large exhibition was developed around the comprehensive control construction from the river of 1892. This exhibition attracted over 110,000 visitors.

In 1997 a newly refurbished museum (3 halls, each 700m2) was opened in the workshop of the International Rhein Control (Austria/Switzerland) in Lustenau. In addition to Rhein regulation, the themes of natural stream development and drinking water were also dealt with. Part of the exhibition focused on the local history of the Rhein communities, as well as the technological history (historical building techniques, the Rhein regulation service train) and questions about the ecology and wildlife reservations of the Alpen Rhein. Slide and DVD shows and audio stations complement the exhibition, and especially interested viewers can watch videos.

The museum organization has been restoring an historic steam engine, and other service train materials. In 1997-99 the restorations were realised on a second steam engine, bd"The St. Gallen" (originally built in 1910) and have required almost 2000 hours of work.

The museum is opened every year between the months of May and September. Untill 2001, 9,000 people per year have seen the exhibition during the five summer months, and went for rides on the service train (bd"Rheinbauml;hnle") to the wildlife reserve at the new Rhein delta.

The museum works to provide a family-oriented educational experience through various activities, and incorporation of the service train for nature excursions. Rides with the steam engine to the Rhein delta are regularly organized. The programs geared toward schools offer regularly updated educational materials for teachers. The museum has a docent staff of 18 people who can take visitors on tours through the exhibitions.

The museum shop offers a wide selection of museum-related articles such as: books, pictures, medallions, and videos. Posters from the special exhibition "fisch.leben" are also for sale. The shop also sells a wide variety of snacks and drinks for visitors, especially for announced groups of visitors. Cook-outs are hold on the museum grounds.

The museum runs on active public participation and a limited budget, but also on a wealth of ideas and a dilligent committment to the program. Annually over 100 press releases were distributed to various forms of the media in Germany, Switzerland and Austria.

Special exhibition "fisch.leben"
A now over 90 years old professional fishermen had collected all important things of his and his father''s profession. The International Rhein Control influences by her activities the environmental situation and is therefor interested to work with the people directly concerned. A large aquarium was sold by the Dornbirner Messe and could be bought by the Museum.

So, in 2002 in the Museum Rhein-Schauen could be realised a special exhibition entitled bd"fisch.leben" which deals with critical natural and ecological themes related to historical fishing in the Rhein and the Lake of Constance. The show is accompanied by a 10 meter-long "Fischtunnel" (aquarium) showing live fishes of the region. "fisch.leben" treats the changements of the environment caused by men and the influence on fish and wildlife habitats. A study of the Rhein as habitat for the fishes has recently be executed and the results had been integrated in the exhibition.

From the beginning the project was based on large cooperation, this is also the philosophy of our institution: We want to work with the people. So the museum had finally won the "Award of the Austrian Ministry of Education, Culture and Science for Communication with Museums 2002 - Innovative Projekte in Partnerschaft", organized by the Buuml;ro fuuml;r Kulturvermittlung, Vienna. 57 Austrian Museums have presented projects, but the particular quality and innovation of our''s, that is the large and various participation of persons and institutions concerning publicity, work, know-how, finance and visitor information has convinced the jury (Mag. Barbara Denscher, ORF, Univ. Prof. Dr. Guuml;nther Dembski (President of ICOM Austria), Mag. Johann Walter (responsible in the Ministery) and Mag. Walter Stach (Buuml;ro fuuml;r Kulturvermittlung). This project is also based on our tradition of cooperation.

One of the special features of the exhibition is that it is supported by the International Rhein Control, by the region of Vorarlberg, Austria, the Canton of  St. Gallen in Switzerland, and the Swiss and Austrian Rhein communities especially the community of Lustenau. It is a real cross-border activity.

Cooperation was further realized with professional fishermen, with fishing associations of St. Gallen and Vorarlberg and with 24 communities in both countries. They contributed in objects, know-how and communication. So did the fishing expert of the government of Vorarlberg, Dr Benno Wagner. Not at least cooperation was realized with the Dornbirner Messe Gesellschaft, where the Museum presented the exhibition "fisch.leben" and runs the Rhein regulation service train, 5,000 flyers were distributed on the Dornbirn fair in April 2002.

The cooperation was very successfull. We are still in contact with the fishermen and the fishing associations, nearly all the partners still cooperate with us. In 2002 the museum had 20,000 visitors (previously there were 9,000 per year) - the exhibition still exists  and the Museum is now more popular and more attractive for our public - families and groups. Next year the fishermen''s hut which were established as info-point near the Rhein and the Lake of Constance will be inaugured.


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