Ever since the founding of the Salzburg Museum in 1834 by Maria Vinzenz Süss (1802–1868), the collection of folkloristic objects has been a central task on its agenda. It includes local traditional dress and accessories, but above all the sector devoted to masks, which from the very beginning was given special attention. From 1902 on, the museum made special efforts to build up a separate folklore department, which was opened in 1904. Since 1924, the collection has had its own museum building, the Folklore Museum in the Monatsschlössl in Hellbrunn.
Visitors are given an inside view of the Salzburg way of life in rich holdings relating to local customs in life and throughout the seasons – clothing, traditional dress and accessories, cribs and minor religious art, jewellery and amulets, textile handicrafts and folk art, and last but certainly not least, the holdings of resplendent rustic furniture.
Already at the foundation of the museum, the sector devoted to masks was recognised as specific and fundamental and to this day has remained a central area of collecting activities. Hand in hand with the scholarly study of the culture of masks in Central Europe started in 1886 by the ethnologist Richard Andree, the museum initiated a targeted action to collect local Perchten (hideous, demonic creatures that are meant to drive away the winter) and Krampus (horned figure accompanying St. Nicholas) masks, and this is being continued today. The purchase of the Klinger Collection in 1995 extended the collection activities to Matrei in East Tyrol (belonged to Salzburg until 1816) – a mask landscape that had been the subject of intensive research in the 1960s/1970s by the Viennese behavioural scientist Prof. Dr. Otto König. The Salzburg Museum purchased the Weininger Collection containing 37 eighteenth- and nineteenth-century carnival and procession masks, thus enhancing the mask collection in the Salzburg Museum and giving it a unique, Austria-wide significance far beyond the borders of Salzburg. In consideration of the Christmas exhibitions held more or less regularly at the Salzburg Museum since the 1950s, the valuable collection of cribs has also been continually enlarged. Besides the early box cribs from the eighteenth century, all renowned Salzburg crib builders are represented with their works – including Franz de Paula Hitzl, Theodor Pfitzer, Johann Klampfer, Xandi Schläffer, and last but not least the famous ceramists Gertrude Weinberger and Luise Spannring. The collection reflects Salzburg’s leading role in the renewal of traditional dress – Tracht – since the early twentieth century, also the influence of the Annahof Trachtenklasse, an educational facility unique in Austria, and Salzburg’s oldest pictorial records from the time around 1790 – the costumes and traditional dress pictures from the Kuenberg Collection – all these are important phases in the development of local dress and are documented in the unique holdings of the traditional dress collection. These also include a number of rare Tracht pieces made by the hand of the Salzburg Tracht designer Carl Mayr from Henndorf, active in the 1920s.
The wide-ranging palette of themes selected from the inventory of the Folklore Collection is made accessible to visitors through special exhibitions. These always place the historical inventory into a context of current developments or contemporary interpretations by crafts(wo)men, artists and designers. Reviving old techniques and interpreting them creatively in accord with the present time is also the motto of the workshops organised up to fifteen times a year by the Folklore Department with themes such as convent crafts and making cribs, knitting, embroidery, fabric printing and much more.
The Monatsschlössl, idyllically situated on Hellbrunn Mountain with view onto Hellbrunn Palace and the urban region of Salzburg with the Hohensalzburg Fortress, was built in1615 as a hunting lodge for Archbishop Mark Sittich. The unosötentatious building, also named Waldems, maintains the simple forms of rustic Late Renaissance without pretension to princely pomp. This is the very aspect that makes it a delightful setting for presenting the Salzburg Museum’s Folklore and Cultural History Collection.