D.he current situation, in which the Bundestag and especially the state parliaments no longer play a role in public perception, can be seen as an argument for, but also against, the plans of the Rhineland-Palatinate state parliament president. According to Hendrik Hering, the previous plenary hall in Mainz should continue to be used as a “place of democracy”. From the Social Democrats’ point of view, it is fortunate that the main furnishing elements of the hall were transferred to the Mainz State Museum five years ago. In this alternative quarter, the parliament met in circular seating arrangements until the outbreak of the corona pandemic, while the traditional location, the baroque Deutschhaus on the banks of the Rhine, was renovated.
After the MPs’ return to the renewed old place of work, which is planned for this year, the discarded furniture could conveniently simply stay where it is currently. In the future, it will be used there, for example, for discussion events and simulation games of parliamentary processes.
There is a catch, however. The conference room has been implanted in the so-called stone hall of the state museum, about half of which it fills. This former electoral riding hall, an important architectural monument in its own right, was not previously empty, but was the most important museum space in Mainz. The most valuable stone monuments of the Roman Mogontiacum have been shown there for decades, including the Jupiter column for Emperor Nero and the arch of honor for Dativius Victor. While some exhibits were integrated into the plenary hall as wall decorations, others had to give way to political use. The exhibition concept of recreating a Roman grave road in the elongated hall and offering visitors a spatial experience that comes close to that of the ancient observer was therefore obsolete.
Sharp criticism from archaeologists
In a joint letter to the President of the State Parliament, the leading national archaeological representative bodies criticize the fact that this disruption of a museological ensemble of international standing, which has been temporarily announced, is now to last German Association for Archeology and the German Association of Archaeologists. The local antiquities association is also critical. The President of the State Parliament has announced that he will meet with the critics on April 28 for a discussion.
One can only speculate about what the management of the State Museum thinks of the President of the State Parliament, and repeated inquiries went unanswered. From politics we hear that the museum supports the planning. It will be able to use the plenary hall for its own events on more than half the days of the year. According to reports, the museum is planning a new concept for the permanent exhibition anyway, also because the traditional presentation of the Roman finds is no longer up-to-date and has recently only attracted a few visitors.
After all, the President of the State Parliament has refrained from the idea formulated in 2019 of making the history of democracy in the south-west part of the permanent exhibition of the State Museum and in it to present the plenary hall as a kind of auratic object. This idea did not fit in with the orientation of the house, which so far has not attracted attention through political history exhibitions, but has instead distinguished itself with a focus on cultural history in addition to the focus on archeology. As far as the old plenary hall is concerned, one will have to deal with a museological hybrid solution – half a solitary large exhibit, half a conference room – an idea that conservators will have to get used to.
The question remains how the Roman relics in Mainz can be presented appropriately and in a contemporary way in the future. The ambitious plans for a large archaeological center, in which the main pieces from the stone hall should also be presented, were cut a few years ago because the state and the city lack the financial means. The rank of the finds and their appreciation by the citizens of Mainz deserved a great success.
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