The MUVS is Now Five Years Old: 80 square metres and 20,000 visitors
The Museum of Contraception and Abortion opened on 7 March 2007
The Museum’s very first item was a calculator made in the 1940s for determining fertile and infertile days in the menstrual cycle, and its first book was ‘Ein Führer durch das Eheleben für denkende Frauen’ (A Marriage Guide for Thinking Women), published in 1911. Since then these two items have been joined by others to total nearly 2000 objects, more than 1100 books, some of them extremely rare, and far more than 2200 brochures, flyers, posters and newspaper clippings.
There has also been a deluge of visitors: since opening in March 2007 almost 20,000 have come, primarily in groups from vocational and secondary schools, training programmes for apprentices and programmes for midwives, employment initiatives, in excursions of university students, club outings, etc. The average age of all visitors is considerably below twenty. Furthermore, the Museum regularly participates in the Long Night of the Museums, another occasion when a number of interested individuals drop into the Museum located on the Mariahilfer Gürtel. Individual visitors from Austria and abroad want to put into perspective their own experiences, many of them painful.
The quality of the work done by this privately owned and operated museum is proven by more than the number of visitors alone: there are also several awards it can be proud of, such as the Austrian Seal of Quality for Museums, its membership in the Austrian Association of Museums, the European Museum Forum’s Kenneth Hudson Award (2010), a nomination for the EMYA 2010, The Best in Heritage (2011) and a grant from the European Society of Contraception and Reproductive Health (2011).
The only one of its kind
The Museum of Contraception and Abortion is the only museum in the world that focuses on this subject, and this fact is reflected in the great interest in information made accessible to everyone unable to travel to Vienna: on its website (in German and English), users can take a virtual tour, listen to a guide, read a number of reports and a wealth of other texts, and access the extensive database. There are detailed images and descriptions of objects and books, and high-resolution scans of about 100,000 pages from published works can be downloaded. Highlights that change frequently and a regular newsletter provide information on current topics of interest and significant anniversaries. In addition, commentary and announcements of hot topics can be found on Facebook. The popularity of the Museum’s online presence is proven by the statistics: each day, about 900 virtual visitors access the database on the MUVS website.
There have been some new additions to the collection’s family, in the form of self-financed purchases and also items from a variety of external sources, such as a 2011 bestowal from the Medical University of Vienna of valuable books and bound journals. A number of scientists who do relevant work have given the Museum their premortem bequest or their collections put together over many years. Storage, preparation, conservation and documentation of the entire collection correspond to academic standards. One necessary task in addition to all the others is the collection, care and preservation of Austrian cultural treasures, such as the purchase of significant material about the pioneers of modern hormone research, Otto Otfried Fellner and Ludwig Haberlandt. Another important focus is presumably Austria’s most famous gynaecologist, Hermann Hubert Knaus, who discovered the fertile and infertile days in the menstrual cycle. In the late 1920s, at the same time though they were working independently, Knaus and his Japanese colleague Kyusaku Ogino identified the days when conception is possible and when it isn’t.
There’s no lack of important subjects, or of the public’s interest, but there is a shortage of space and money: at present, the exhibits, archive and library are crammed into 80 square metres located near Vienna’s western train station. Tour groups from schools frequently have to be divided up because there isn’t sufficient room for so many visitors at one time. A larger location is needed urgently, and a new financial basis must be found: funding for development and operations is currently provided by a private source, and while schools, the city of Vienna, the federal government and other public bodies are happy to make use of the Museum for educational purposes, they have not as yet seen the need to provide any kind of funding. The situation with private donations is also catastrophic: after examining the matter for some time, the Federal Ministry for Education, Arts and Culture added the MUVS to the list of institutions for which donations are tax-deductible. However, the Ministry of Finance has refused to put this decision into practice.
Visit the Museum for Contraception and Abortion (MUVS), Mariahilfer Gürtel 37, 1150 Vienna, open Wednesday to Sunday, 2 to 6 p.m., or visit our website on en.muvs.org and our facebooksite http://www.facebook.com/eMUVS.