November – December 2012

Exhibition curators: dr Jarmila Kaczmarek, dr Maciej Przybył

Among the many “ancestors” that laid down the groundwork for archaeological studies in Poznań Erich Blume holds a very special place. His short industrious life, considerable scientific achievement and tragic death have been a subject of vivid interest of both Polish and German archaeologists. Our exhibition, organised on the centenary of his death, is to bring back the man and his four-year achievement.

Erich Blume was an Evangelical German. Born September 6th1884 inBerlin, he completed one of the best secondary schools in Steglitz (today aBerlin district), distinguishing himself with his diligence and versatility of interests. In the years 1903-1908 he studied history and German philology at the universities in Freiburg andBerlin, but  under the influence of the leading archaeologist Gustaf Kossinny he started prehistory at theHumboldtUniversity. He soon became Kossinny’s favourite, who tried to pass on to his  protégé not just extensive knowledge of prehistory  but also nationalistic ideas and the belief in the superiority of the “German race” .

In 1908, close to the end of his studies and prior to doctoral exam, the young Erich was offered a job in theEmperorFrederickMuseuminPoznań. It was a prestigious cultural centre in Wielkopolska  intended as a stronghold for the  propagation of German culture. From the very beginning Blume saw hisPoznańpost as a step in his academic and professional career. He was immediately appointed to help the organisation of the German Anthropological Congress which was to take place inPoznańin 1909, and to organize an archaeological exhibition from private collections that was to accompany the Congress. To realise the two tasks Blume had to get in contact with  a number of Poles, which resulted in the young scholar  rejecting the viewpoint inherited from his mentor. The Congress and the Exhibition were a success for thePoznańmilieu, with Blume playing a major role in the triumph. 

Both the published doctorate and catalogue of the Exhibition represented the highest academic level and both works have been used and quoted by successive generations of scholars. Blume’s great achievement was to transform the Prehistory Department of theEmperorFrederickMuseuminto a vibrant academic institution. The numerous excavations under his supervision were of highest scientific quality and his surface surveys in selected areas were a complete novelty in Wielkopolska. He tutored Wilhelm Thamm, his Prehistory Department co-worker, into an excellent technical and field worker and became the central figure of a group of archaeological enthusiasts  who after training were engaged in archaeological rescue operations and informed the Museum about new findings.

In 1912 the ambitious scholar was given an opportunity of promotion to the post of the director’s assistant in the Hanovermuseum, which opened a prospect of a future job as director of one of the Prussian museums. Blume won the competition but did not manage to take over his new appointment. A few days before his departure from Poznań, during a round of farewell visits, he was murdered by his own wife he had married a few months earlier.  He died on September 10th 1912. His tragic death and the trial of his murderess aroused huge public interest in the city. He left behind many kind memories, sizeable collections and a sound documentation that has been over the years eagerly drawn upon by scholars.