Museums are People, Too!

Every few days, it occurs to me that another industry is in crisis because of the COVID pandemic: tourism, concerts, restaurants, airlines…and museums.

A friend of mine who runs a museum in the USA confided in me that he thinks a third of the shuttered museums in our country won’t re-open. Knowing the passions and dreams that make museums — especially small mom-and-pop museums — possible, this breaks my heart.

I just received this uplifting video from my friends Karin and Gerhard Strassgschwandtner. Karin and Gerhard have invested their life savings in a lifelong passion: Vienna’s Third Man (Dritte Mann) Museum, which lovingly focuses on the cult 1949 Orson Welles film — while also offering a unique and fascinating look at Vienna during and after WWII. The museum is only open to the public on Saturdays, but they give private tours to Rick Steves tour groups by reservation. (And with their guidance, it’s a highlight of these tours.)

In this video, my friends Karin and Gerhard are dancing in their empty museum…as if to declare that even if it’s closed, it is still alive. Watching this, it hit me: Museums are people, too!

I hope you enjoy the clip twice: first to lap up Karin and Gerhard’s joy, and second for glimpses of their museum. And as you do, remember the many struggling museums that are powered by passion and love…and that without our patronage, they cannot survive.

PS: I’ve got to mention: Their surname, Strassgschwandtner, comes with seven consonants in a row!

PPS: Since I recommend Karin and Gerhard’s museum in my Vienna guidebook and they give private tours to Rick Steves tour groups, we stay in touch by email. And in their latest email, they shared the following news:

“The Third Man Museum becomes now even better than before, a real Rick Steves-style museum: Created by two obsessed but friendly persons and “over the top.” Our museum was awarded with the ‘Vienna Tourism Prize 2020’. That is a big thing here. Up to now, only four great museums — the Albertina, Schoenbrunn, Jewish Museum, and Belvedere — achieved that! Now, our little homemade museum is number five in Vienna. And I am very happy to announce that we will survive this pandemic, and we will be open on Saturdays and enthusiastically welcome Rick Steves tour groups at any time. We look to see you again soon. Many friendly greetings! And to a good 2021/2022 season! – Gerhard and Karin”

Here’s a shot of all three of us at the museum in 2018. See you soon, Karin and Gerhard!