The birthplace of Karl Marx reopens to the public on June 9 with a new permanent exhibition which follows the life of the founder of socialism through his work and his worldwide effect on history from the 19th century to the present day. The use of modern media in the renovated home of Marx is expected to bring his remarkable life to a new audience.
But how relevant is Marx in the 21st century? Why should someone spend time and money presenting his life to a new audience? These are the questions that the curators of the Karl Marx House in Trier want to try and answer with the new multi-media installation.
While the house still displays the well-known quotations from the man himself alongside objective critiques and criticisms of his ideas, the new exhibition includes computerized data terminals which allow visitors to dig deeper into the thinking behind Marx's concepts and what was happening in the world at the time of his writings.
Exhibition looks at global influence
The exhibition also expands the theme of Marx's life and work into his influence on world ideologies and politics, beyond Europe, specifically in countries like China, Cuba, Chile, Vietnam, and also countries in Africa.
Marx's appeal and influence is still strong in these countries, especially in China. Almost a third of the 35,000 visitors which visit the Karl Marx House every year are Asian guests, with the majority coming from China. For most of them it is almost a pilgrimage, according to Elisabeth Neu, the museum's head guide.
"They come with such reverence," Neu said. "There was a professor and his wife who visited last year and they were so overawed and reverential, it was something new to us."
Criticism prompts new approach
While there are some who still revere Marx, the guestbook reveals there are an equal number who are more critical about the man, his work and the museum itself. "One can see from the reactions in the visitor's book that some people are critical, saying that 'the museum is well intentioned but (Marx) brought repression to our country'," Neu added.
In an attempt to offer a balanced view of Karl Marx and his influence, the new museum now includes an audio guide in four languages -- German, English, French and Chinese --which contains critical remarks about the man and his ideology, and also includes comments that criticize the application of his works in countries such as China.
This is a new approach by the curators of the museum and one which is yet untested. How the new, more critical exhibition will be received will be revealed once the house reopens on June 9.Marie Mévellec (nda)