Monday, November 9, 2009

The Museum and the Library

The HIstorical Museum of Bern (Historisches Museum Bern) and the Library of the Bourgeoisie (Burgerbibliothek Bern) have been part of any trip to Bern for as long as I can remember. They both house a good deal of the de Büren patrimony.

Most of their holdings came from the Bern line of the family that died out with Eugene von Büren. In my opinion if Eugene had had more faith in the other members of the family not to squander the rich heritage of his forefathers, the holdings might still be in private hands, but that alas is another story.

With my grandfather's and my father's generation the relationship with both institutions has been cordial, and at times a bit frosty. I know my grandfather felt many of the items were rightfully his. In communications with my grandfather, he often felt that the museum and library were not always very transparent in their accounting for all of the items relating to the de Büren family. Similarly, I remember very vividly that when I visited the the Library as a teenager, the Director at the time told me in no uncertain terms, that any family item was the property of Switzerland and I should persuade my father to ship everything back.

It is upon this sometime rocky ground that I made my current visit to the Bernisches Historisches Museum and Burgerbibliothek. I however wanted my interaction with these institutions to be different, one of my own making, one built upon mutual respect and shared passion for history and cultural preservation. My projects on the de Büren family and Henri de Büren's travels through the Americas have created that platform for a new relationship.

Bernisches Historisches Museum

The museum is closed on Monday but Mr. Quirinius Reichen was gracious enough to receive me. We spoke first about my projects and showed him my research to date. He was impressed with what I had accomplished, and we proceeded to the basement of the museum to look through the catalogue of de Büren items. He was very helpful and patient and I was able to see some amazing portraits which he said he would get me photos of.

In a less than regal moment, while in the cramped basement I hit the top of my head on a metal fire extinguisher box. As I saw stars and felt blood trickle down my scalp, I joked with my host that I was now part of the museum.


After lunch I met with the new Director of the Library Dr. Claudia Engler. We had a great meeting. She was gracious enough to have consulted the family archive beforehand and had pulled some books and manuscripts that she felt I might be interested in. She was taken with my passion for my family heritage and offered to help in whatever way she could. I was able to complement her understanding of the de Büren portrait archive and felt it was a meeting of peers. It was truly enjoyable.

Wayne Dyer says "When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change." I believe that is true of my interactions with these great institutions in Bern. I wanted a relationship that was not encumbered by the baggage of the past, I wanted one that was authentic and supportive and that is what I received.

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