The arrow flies towards the target… direct hit! “Almost as good as Robin Hood,” says Alexander Schubert with a smile on his face. The director of the Historical Museum of the Palatinate in Speyer lowers his bow. “I also have fun using the interactive stations,” says the museum man, “this is how history becomes vivid and something you can truly experience.”
The Historical Museum of the Palatinate is indeed an experience and it has been for over 100 years. It is one of the most important historical museums in Germany and has a stock of more than one million exhibits and famous finds, such as the Golden Hat of Schifferstadt, a Late Bronze Age artefact. However, it is the special exhibitions that make the museum unique: At the current Robin Hood exhibition, visitors may draw the bow and fire arrows towards a target just like in a medieval tournament of knights. This is amusement park-like entertainment for the whole family you wouldn’t expect from a historical museum. But family exhibitions have been an integral part of the programme for many years at the Speyer museum that is located at the Domplatz. And Alexander Schubert is its driving force and mint of ideas.
Bayreuth-born Alexander has been an active force in Speyer since 2014. At the “Reiss-Engelhorn-Museen” museums in Mannheim, the 49-year-old had already demonstrated how to dust off and reinvent historic exhibitions. “I enjoy communicating knowledge in an entertaining way,” he says. Today, a museum director must be a bit of an entertainer, too. Holding a PhD in history of the Middle Ages, he has the scientific expertise, but he also possesses the marketing gene, which comes in handy in the so-called cathedral town of Speyer.
Alexander studied history in Bamberg. He began his working life in a museum there and later in Magdeburg, until Alfried Wieczorek contacted him in 2006. The director general of the Reiss-Engelhorn-Museen was keen to bring Alexander to the ‘Square City’ Mannheim. No sooner said than done, Alexander’s first task was marketing the show “Alexander the Great,” which became a box office hit. Exhibitions on the Hohenstaufen and the Wittelsbach dynasties followed. More than 600 years of history came alive in the architectural ensemble of Mannheim Baroque Palace, the Jesuit Church and the Armoury—quite an appropriate stage for such a big exhibition, involving three regions.