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April 2000

Hip Hop

Cool stuff at Munich's Easter Bunny museum

Manfred klauda had a dream. His vision was to open a museum that would entice the 95 percent of the public who had never seen the inside of such an institution to visit his. In 1990, Klauda realized his goal, opening the Zentrum für Aussergewöhnliche Museen (ZAM — center for unusual museums)in Munich. The frustrated artist — his parents encouraged him to go into law rather than to nurture his creative impulses — began his career as a collector by acquiring 40 chamber pots, which he purchased at an auction. The chamber pot collection, which now contains some 2,000 models, features toilets of the illustrious, such as the over-sized royal Topf owned by Ludwig II of Bavaria, Bismarck’s porcelain convenience as well as an early “porto-potty,” which Austrian Emperor Franz Josef kept at the home of his mistress. Klauda’s museum now houses seven different collections of everyday objects of cultural and historical interest. A first of its kind, one such display comprises 130 pedal cars — including rare models built in Germany, England, France, Italy and the United States. Among other offerings are perfume bottle and padlock collections and the world’s first Easter bunny museum. The Easter bunny — in German, Osterhase — can most likely be traced back to a hare, allegedly kept by Ostara, a fertility goddess. The German word for Easter, Ostern, is a derivation of her name. At this time of year, the one thousand Easter bunnies displayed at the ZAM are among the most popular exhibits, and not just among the young. The rabbits, in fact, fill two entire rooms of Munich’s most unusual museum. But the Easter bunny was not always so popular: in the mid-eighth century, the sexually active animal was frowned upon on account of its pronounced virility and daunting productivity. This reputation led Pope Zacharias to forbid the eating of hare, describing it as “the devil’s roast” — a threat to all Christians. Nonetheless, the robust rabbit has, over the centuries, managed to outlive its opposition and is now deemed to be a most lovable little creature. The Easter bunnies in Klauda’s collection represent a journey through the past 150 years and a good cross-section of these are on display at the ZAM. In the 19th century, the holiday hares were often made of cardboard, wood or fabric. Some had removable heads, inside of which small sweet treats were hidden — forerunners of present-day chocolate rabbits. Toward the end of that century, papier-mâché became the preferred material among bunny-makers. The realistic animals were then dressed in human apparel and set in common situations. The Hasenschule (hare school), for example, contains miniature classrooms peopled with bunnies and tiny egg factories. Mechanical bunnies, rare clockwork rabbits and hares made from tin and wood highlight the museum’s turn-of-the-century offerings. By the 1940s, Easter’s cuddly symbol was commonly manufactured by employing plush, imitation fur. Lifelike Steiff Easter bunnies and a particularly fine Schuco cottontail atop a wind-up scooter add style to Klauda’s collection. The Easter icon also assumes more palatable forms. Though early edible bunnies often consisted of pastry dough with a hard-boiled egg placed in the “stomach,” this hearty hare died a natural death (though the practice has recently been revived by some of Munich’s bakeries,) with the advent of chocolate bunnies. One of the earliest rabbit tin forms on view at the ZAM dates from 1890. Unique porcelain bunny molds, many in the shape of egg cups, stem from the potters of Thuringia, craftsmen who left their mark on the turn-of-the-century chocolate Osterhase. During both World Wars, the Easter bunny was somewhat exploited. The once neutral character was now often portrayed as a patriot — enthusiastically waving banners or dressed in soldiers’ uniforms. A Hitler Youth bunny in full dress complete with a swastika-decorated egg, sheds a more sober light on Klauda’s cast of curiosities. On a lighter note, a series of amusing Easter postcards, a variety of books and a magic lantern camera with slides, plates and cut-out motifs round out the ZAM exhibition. Until his untimely death in late 1999, Klauda continued to extend and improve his collections by opening an additional museum, in Tegernsee, devoted to the glory of guardian angels. These truly extraordinary exhibits remain as a tribute to this remarkable man and his fascination with quoditian objects. <<< ZAM, Westenriederstrasse 26, Tel. (089) 29 04 121, Fax (089) 33 39 55 Hours: open daily 10-18, S-Bahn station: Isar Tor.

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