In their time, the Brothers Grimm were appreciated and highly respected as linguists and collectors of fairy tales far beyond the German border. In 1865, after their deaths, the major part of their private professional library was taken to Berlin University’s library, whereas large parts of their private and academic estate, including several medieval manuscripts and rare printings, were kept in the so called “Grimm closets” of the Royal Library (today: Berlin State Library – Prussian Cultural Heritage). The Nuremberg Germanic National Museum received their last desks along with their writing utensils. The Brothers-Grimm-Association, which was located in the former State Library in Kassel, where the Brothers Grimm worked between 1814/1816 and 1829, took charge of the personal copies of the “Children and Household Tales” with the Grimm’s own comments and additions and also received Jacob Grimm’s personal copies of the first edition of his “German Grammar”.
Motivated by the 100th anniversary of their birth (1885/86), bourgeois actions caused numerous establishments of Grimm societies and memorials at the end of the 19th century in their Hessian home, where they were denied appreciation and recognition by the elector and bureaucracy in their life times. On October 18th 1896, the great national monument created by Syrius Eberle (plaster busts of the Brothers Grimm are kept in Brothers-Grimm-Museum today) was put up in Hanau in front of the city hall. Shortly after this, in Kassel on the 29th of January 1897 the Brothers-Grimm-Association was founded with the goal “of honouring the memory of the Brothers Grimm in a manner corresponding to their great importance (…) by means of: 1. the collections, the memories of the brothers of any kind united by their relatives and circle of friends (…), 2. their lectures, 3. supporting and editing academic work (…), 4. the circulation of essays by the Brothers Grimm, 5. looking for financial sup
port which was supposed to erect a monument to the Brothers Grimm in Kassel.” In May 1897, a first Brothers Grimm exhibition took place with evidences of their lives, letters, various editions of their works and other memorabilia, whose number is still increasing until today. The collection was kept in the State Library in Kassel until the First World War and has formed the foundations – apart from some painful losses during the war- of the Brothers-Grimm- Museum in Kassel. Between the first and the second World Wars these attempts grinded to a halt. Through an initiative by the publisher and bookseller Karl Vötterle and with the support of the then president Prince Phillip of Hesse the Brothers-Grimm-Association was founded anew in the middle of the Second World War on April 14th 1942. This time its goals were used as instruments by the national socialists. After the end of the war, the association was able to develop continuously. Unfortunately, numerous pieces of the Grimm
collection in Kassel were lost forever through the disastrous Allied bombing, in which large parts of the city were destroyed.
In May 1958 the association published an international appeal with the support of many political, economic, academic and art figures to found the Brothers-Grimm-Museum in Kassel, which was put into practice as the “Civil Rights Association” by the municipal authorities of Kassel and the Brothers-Grimm-Association on December 19th 1959.
Through generous donations of household effects, paintings, sketches, letters and other memorabilia – above all by Carl Hassenpflug and his sister Nora Hassenpflug the great- grandchildren of Lotte Grimm, Jacob’s and Wilhelm’s sister- the remains of the old Grimm collection in Kassel were nicely augmented. Later, a large part of the personal and artistic estate of their brother, the painter Ludwig Emil Grimm, could be purchased by his great- granddaughter Thea v. Bose and her son. Numerous further endowments and purchases have made the Brothers-Grimm-Museum’s collections in Kassel an important draw for international Grimm studies. In the 1990s, the estate Schoof/ van de Zijpe, later the professorial libraries of Hans-Bernd Harder and Ulrich Pretzel, as well as the academic estate of Leo Weisgerber could be brought to Kassel.
The first exhibition was opened on the 4th of January in the Murhard Library of the City of Kassel at the Brüder-Grimm-Platz 4A on Jacob Grimm’s 175th birthday. In 1972 the museum moved into the baroque Palais Bellevue at the Schöne Aussicht No. 2, which was built as an observatory by Paul du Ry in 1714. Here, it has been possible to more adequately present a greater number of exhibits on account of considerably more space. The 200th anniversary of the brothers’ birthdays in 1985 and 1986 were important milestones in the history of the Brothers-Grimm-Association and the Brothers-Grimm-Museum. They were celebrated with numerous exhibitions, talks and other events under the patronage of the museum and the association with financial and organisational support by the state of Hesse as well as the Hessian Grimm towns Hanau, Steinau, Marburg and Kassel. The anniversary celebrations, which took place in Kassel, Marburg, Berlin and Hanau in 1985 and 1986(and in an altered fashion in Br
ussels and Bonn in 1989), were able to document and help a larger audience understand the life, activities and international influence of the Brothers Grimm. On the Brothers-Grimm-Association’s initiative two further memorial sites were founded in Hesse at the end of the 20th century: in 1997 the Brothers-Grimm-House Steinau in the former office building, which was the Grimm family’s residence (from 1791- 1796), that has been completely preserved, and in 2000 the House of Romanticism in Marburg on the Lahn, where the Grimms attended university.
During and after the anniversary years, the publishing and exhibition activities of the Brothers-Grimm-Association and the Brother-Grimm-Museum Kassel were given new impetus. Over 200 special exhibitions with alternating topics have taken place in Germany and abroad since 1985/86. A large amount of new archive material and numerous collections have been made accessible, exchanges of letters and other documents have been reedited. With considerable financial help the Brothers-Grimm-Association was able to support numerous volumes of the important discussion forum “Brother Grimm Memories” as well as further research in the “Essays by the Brothers-Grimm-Association”. At the same time, a platform was given to the special exhibitions department of the museum with the series “Exhibitions in the Brothers-Grimm-Museum” (Large and small series).
The publication of the “Yearbook of the Brothers-Grimm-Association” in which the results of the international Brothers Grimm research were summarized, reviewed and bibliographically recorded on a regular basis was managed successfully in 1991.
Today, the Brothers-Grimm-Museum Kassel has provided more than about 100.000 items concerning all areas of the Brother Grimm’s life, their work and worldwide activities. Furniture, glass, china, silver and many other belongings come from the households of the Brother’s Grimm, who lived in Kassel from 1798 until 1829 and from 1837/38 until 1841. The museum’s collections of monographs and its holdings of first editions and personal copies of the Brothers Grimm is internationally renowned. The drawings, etchings and paintings by their brother, the painter Ludwig Emil Grimm, are also significant. It was him who made their life visual by painting several episodes in various ways. He ranks among the most important drawers of the German Romanticism movement in Hesse, and together with the Baltic-German painter Gerhardt Wilhelm v. Reutern, he founded the first German artist’s colony in Wilingshausen in the Swalm. Further focuses of the collections in Kassel are the academic areas of
the Brothers Grimm (Literary ethnology, Germanic languages and literature, law, history and mythology, Romance languages and literature, Slavonic studies, Celtic studies) as well as their political activities. The collection of the various illustrated editions and translations of the “Children’s and Household Tales”; which are documented in numerous languages and dialects from all over the world is particularly large.
The showrooms of the museum in Kassel have been located in the Palais Bellevue since 1998. The permanent exhibition on the life and work of the Brothers Grimm on the first floor documents the most important stages in their lives in chronological order together with their academic and political activities. These rooms are designed in the style and colour of their time, are originally furnished and provide space for many other original exhibits. The most important and most valuable one is the Grimm’s personal copies of the “Children’s and Household Tales” ( 2 volumes, Berlin, 1812- 1815) which contains numerous handwritten remarks and notes which is a first-rank source concerning the genesis of the fairy tales. Unesco officially registered it as Memory of the World in 2005.
The 2nd floor dedicated to the topic “fairytales” is interesting to children and adults alike, as an interactive fairy tale world (forest, hero, castle) is presented in three areas, which begin in a round central room. Alternating exhibitions and events are located in the rooms on of the ground floors as well as in the ones on the first floor. The annual fairy-tale festival, which takes place in and at Palais Bellevue on the first of September, enjoys great popularity and attracts thousands of visitors.
The biography of the Brothers Grimm at the Main and Kinzig and the world of their fairy tales is presented on two floors with 14 showrooms in the Brothers-Grimm House in Steinau. Smaller alternating exhibitions, art programmes and talks take place here on an irregular basis, as well. Other events also take place at the various Grimm sites on a regular basis.
There are three major tasks for the future: First, we will continue to attempt to gather further testimonies with the acquisition and collection policy regarding life, work and affects of the Brothers Grimm and make Kassel, together with Hanau, Steinau and Marburg, the Hessian centre of the worldwide Grimm studies.. Second, academic activities and projects shall be supported by the internationally working Brothers-Grimm-Association and its publication forums. Third, special exhibitions and events will help a larger audience understand the Grimm’s activities. Above all, the importance of the understanding among nations as well as the political activities of the Hessian scholars of German language and literature and fairy tale researchers.