Discover the colourful diversity of Europe with the collection of the Museum Europäischer Kulturen

Museum Europäischer Kulturen
The Museum Europäischer Kulturen (MEK) contributes to an appreciation of what unites Europe in the diversity of its history and culture by reflecting current social and cultural processes and illustrating historical connections. Its research, collections, exhibitions and dissemination are all aimed at a deeper understanding of life and cultural contacts in Europe. The collection comprises around 280,000 objects from everyday life and popular culture from Germany and other European countries from the 18th Century to today, making it the largest of its kind in Europe.
When human beings gather into groups they automatically set themselves apart from those who do not belong to the same group. They have common aims and interests and often develop an identity which they want to demonstrate visually to themselves and others. This frequently involves wearing the same uniform clothing, expressing their membership of the group, be it football shirts, hipster gear or traditional folk costume, which at the same time always follows a fashion trend.

How, for instance, would people demonstrate their commitment to the European Union? By wearing ‘Europe Costumes’ like those designed by Berlin fashion designer Stephan Hann for the exhibition ‘Cultural Contacts. Living in Europe’?

Stephan Hann
Women’s and men’s costumes – ‘The Europeans’ 
L: 160 cm and 250 cm
Textile, paper, plastic, metal, pearls, machine and hand-sewn

These costumes are made from a colourful mix of materials incorporating stylistic elements from regional traditional costumes and historical fashion ideas from Europe.

An example for such an element is the flower on the hem of the woman‘s skirt, worked in wire and Venetian pearls, or the belt on the man’s costume, which is made from European coins.

The clothes invite us to reflect on the idea of a transnational European identity and discuss how this may be influenced by local, regional and national identities.

Shirts of the German men’s and women’s national football teams 
L (max.): 95 cm
Synthetic fibre, machine-sewn
Gift from the German Football Association (DFB)

Today sport, and especially football, is more than ever the focus of positive national identification. Yet the national football shirts themselves reveal interconnections that go far beyond the nation and are European and even global in scope. These shirts were made in Thailand and worn during World Cup finals by Mesut Özil, the child of Turkish immigrants, and Fatmire ‘Lira’ Alushi (née Bajramaj), who came to Germany from Kosovo at the age of three.

Traditional women’s costume from Olympos, Island of Karpathos, Greece 
L: 130 cm
Cotton, artificial silk, leather, hand and machine-sewn

In Olympos, a village in the north of the Greek island of Karpathos in the Aegean, this traditional costume used to be worn by all married women and identified them as belonging to that place.

Today it has a thriving folklorism industry and traditional costumes are mainly worn for the benefit of the many tourists.

Lindhorst cape, Schaumburg-Lippe, North Germany 
1st half of 20th Century.
L: 140 cm
Wool, cotton, hand and machine-sewn

The area in which the Schaumburg-Lippe traditional costume is worn covers Bückeburg, Frille and Lindhorst. The traditional costumes of this cultural landscape are related to each other, but differ slightly from region to region. A notable feature is the large round cape which protects the traditional costume in bad weather. Its form derives from the mediaeval tradition of circular or semi-circular cloaks.

This type of clothing, too, is a sign of regional identity, while at the same time showing the connection between fashion and local uniform tendencies.

Costume of a Candlemas runner from Spergau, a district of the town of Leuna in Germany 
L: 180 cm
Cotton, synthetic fibres, sewn

The Candlemas runner with his cape of many-coloured silk ribbons and a crown of flowers is the central figure in the Spergau feast of Candlemas, which is still enthusiastically celebrated even today by the whole town.

In this carnivalesque feast marking the mid-point of winter, the Candlemas runner collects “taxes” in the form of food. In the evening, the whole village comes together to eat and especially drink what was given – since anyone who does not join in with Candlemas is not a proper Spergauer!

Traditional marksman’s costume, Delecke near Soest, Germany 
L: 170 cm
Cotton, synthetic fibres, fabricated

This traditional costume of a “marksman king” comes from the St. Hubertus Marksmen’s Brotherhood 1882 club. Its main distinguishing features are the green and white sash and the green and white marksman’s cockade bearing the words “Schützenbruderschaft Delecke, Drüggelte, Westrich” (Delecke, Drüggelte, Westrich Marksmen’s Brotherhood). It belonged to Heinz Näckel, whose son has donated it to the Museum. Marksmen’s clubs have a long local tradition, especially in Germany. They were originally formed to protect the community and also engaged in charitable activities.

Marksmen’s traditional costumes, too, demonstrate to the outside world uniform tendencies and attitudes, consciously communicating their wearers’ common values. Among wearers they are the focus of community-building rituals.

Photograph by Sabine von Bassewitz

Goths are members of what is known as Dark Culture, a very heterogeneous youth subculture that developed during the 1980s and they stand out with fashions that are extremely individualistic self-dramatisations.

Yet this style of clothing has a “uniform” element about it, just like traditional folk costumes, in catering to the basic human need to belong to a community, a need that is conveyed especially through the outer shell.

Museum Europäischer Kulturen, National Museums in Berlin
Credits: Story

Text: Staatliche Museen zu Berlin- Preußischer Kulturbesitz /
Elisabeth Tietmeyer, Dagmar Neuland-Kitzerow
, Iris Edenheiser

Cultural Contacts. Living in Europa, published by Elisabeth Tietmeyer und Irene Ziehe for the Museum Europäischer Kulturen – Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Koehler & Amelang Verlag 2011.

Concept /Editing: Elisabeth Tietmeyer, Dagmar Neuland-Kitzerow
, Iris Edenheiser

Realisation: Lisa Janke

Photo: Ute Franz-Scarciglia, Sabine von Bassewitz

Translation: Catherine Hales and Stephan Schmidt

© Staatliche Museen zu Berlin – Stiftung Preußischer Kulturbesitz
Museum Europäischer Kulturen

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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