Ensuring that all of the objects in the exhibitions and collection are properly maintained and cared for is one of the most important tasks of the Luther Memorials Foundation. Professional conservators perform a wide range of preservation and restoration measures on paintings, paper, wood, metal, glass, stone and framed surfaces. We work to coordinate and oversee these activities.
In recent years in particular, it has been possible to implement extensive conservation and restoration projects thanks to the new design and reorganisation of the permanent exhibitions in all five locations. Objects are also restored and preserved on a regular basis for the special exhibitions and for lending to other institutions.
A long-term project was launched in 2000 in order to save the valuable inventory of historical books. Already, book sponsorships funded entirely from private donors have made it possible to save more than 170 prints, the majority of which stem from the 16th century.
The Lutherstube, which still has most of its original furnishings, is the authentic site of Luther remembrance and constitutes the highlight of each museum visit to the Luther House in Wittenberg. The Lutherstube, which was already referred to as the ‘Museum Lutheri’ back in 1655, will be one of the most visited memorial sites for German and international guests during the 500th anniversary of the Reformation in 2017.
We have beeen taking advantage of the period when the Luther House was closed for Autumn/Winter 2016/17 to carry out urgently needed preservation and restoration work in this famous room, as no major restoration work has been carried out there since 1967.
A start was made in early 2016 when the surfaces were cleaned and damages recorded. While this was taking place, we commissioned analyses, assessed old photogrammetric surveys and performed new ones.
A catalogue of measures coordinated with the State Office for Historic Preservation serves as the foundation for subsequent work. This catalogue mandates that all permanent and movable wooden furnishings, plaster and windows, as well as the stove, are to be restored and preserved. All of this work will have been completed by March 2017.
The examinations have revealed new findings regarding the early visitors of the Lutherstube, who inscribed their name and often a date into the wooden panels, walls and even in the glass of the windows.
Already in the 16th century, numerous people from near and far were coming to the Lutherstube in order to pay tribute to the memory of the reformer, and many left a lasting mark with chalk inscriptions and etchings in the wood. In order to put a stop to this, as of 1783 guest books were made available. Even so, book entries and wall inscriptions built up side by side for many decades, until the inscriptions were finally removed by no later than 1883. Today there are just a few that still survive, the most prominent of which is one made in chalk by Czar Peter I, who visited the Lutherstube in 1712.
The first guest book from 1783 – 100 years before the founding of the ‘Luther Hall’ museum – is one of the earliest memorial guest books and an outstanding documentation of the Luther House’s history as a museum.
The book was very much in need of restoration, with a faulty binding and considerable damage to the cover and body of the book. As a result, the entire book was taken apart, given a dry clean, re-stitched and bound, cracks were closed and missing pieces restored.
Furthermore, the individual pages were digitalised as part of the restoration process, in order to allow for the scholarly examination of the autographs.