6 December 2019 until 19 July 2020
The Second Original
Reconsidering Photography: Reproductions

In the exhibition The Second Original, the Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg (MKG) will be showing rediscovered glass negatives that were made between 1897 and 1915 by the museum’s first employee, Wilhelm Weimar (18571917), to document museum objects. While museums once create only a limited number of photographic reproductions, today, as part of the digital indexing of their collections, they produce vast amounts of digital images, which they also make available to the public on websites. As a rule, the nature of the reproduction itself fades into the background when viewing the collection item pictured, and it thus takes on the role of a proxy. In this case, however, the materiality of the historical glass negatives with their large 18 x 24 cm format and solid, cool glass lends them a special quality and attraction. Originally produced as illustrative material, they are perceived today as photographic objects in their own right: they have become second originals. The exhibition presents these stunning image carriers and illuminates based on some 150 objects the origins of their use at MKG in a presentation divided into three sections. Apart from the glass negatives, many historical prints made from them are on view, along with slides, illustrations in publications, and today’s digital images. Viewers can trace and assess the effects of the changeover from handmade to mechanical reproductions by comparing the negatives with Wilhelm Weimar’s drawings of museum objects in pen and ink, pencil, or watercolour. A digital visualization of the complete set of 1,700 glass negatives experiments with new forms of communication. The collection of negatives was indexed and researched over the last three years as part of the interdisciplinary project PriMus – Promovieren im Museum (PhD in Museums).

The Second Original
is the final project at MKG in the framework of the interdisciplinary project PriMus – Promovieren im Museum (PhD in Museums). PriMus is a collaboration between Leuphana University Lüneburg and six museums from the Hamburg Region: Hamburger Kunsthalle, Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg, Deichtorhallen Hamburg, MARKK – Museum am Rothenbaum Kulturen und Künste der Welt, Ostpreußisches Landesmuseum (Lüneburg), Buddenbrookshaus und Heinrich-und-Thomas-Mann-Zentrum (Lübeck). PriMus is funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) and VDI/VDE Innovation + Technik GmbH.

Sarah Kreiseler is the curator of the exhibition, which presents the results of her research for her doctoral thesis. She organized the exhibition in collaboration with Esther Ruelfs, head of the Photography and New Media Collection.


Cover image: Wilhelm Weimar (1857–1917), “Three Flower Baskets from Japan,” c. 1901, glass negative, 17.8 x 23.8 cm, MKG