Mark Twain Center for Transatlantic Relations

'Traval is fatal to prejudice - Mark Twain in Heidelberg

Special exhibition at the MTC from 19 June 2020 to 18 October 20
 Friday to Sunday between 12 noon and 6.00pm

Our first ever temporary exhibition pays homage to our Center’s namesake. Working with international partners and students from the Julius Springer School, we have put together an exhibition that illustrates Twain’s view of Heidelberg and the German people.

Mark Twain at work (Picture: Library of Congress, Washington D.C.)
family Clemens (Picture: Library of Congress, Washington D.C.)

Background

In the spring and summer of 1878, Samuel L. Clemens – better known by his pseudonym of Mark Twain – spent more than three months in Heidelberg. He recorded the stories of his observations and encounters in an extensive travel diary, entitled A Tramp Abroad, which was published in the USA in 1880. In the early 20th century it was also translated into German as Bummel durch Europa.

Twain was already known worldwide as an author and humorist and soon settled in at the city’s most elegant hotel, high above the Castle. He also rented a room to write in, situated on the wooded slopes with a view over the town and the river. During his sojourn he gathered a wealth of impressions and observations as he visited different places in Heidelberg and the surrounding area. Like his daughter, he took German lessons, and he also tried his hand at drawing and painting. He devoted a whole chapter of his book to ‘the awful German language’, to which he and his family nevertheless remained very attached for the rest of their lives.

Apart from the descriptions of the places he visited, Twain used his trip to reflect on the traits and characteristics, real and supposed, of Germans and Americans. His observations, as he holds up a mirror to us, are frequently sarcastic and always very incisive. His style is succinct but never unkind and he became a role model for many contemporary comedians and entertainers.
 

Neckarpanorama (Picture: Kurpfälzisches Museum)

The exhibition

As we developed our exhibition, we based our work on Twain’s account of his travels, published in A Tramp Abroad. The book consists of scenic collages, and we illustrate some of these through combinations of words, images, and contemporary artifacts that complement each other. They include his visit to the Castle, a fencing duel and a raft trip on the River Neckar. A highlight of the exhibition is a selection of the many drawings and caricatures that appeared in the original edition of Twain’s book.

Schlosshotel (Picture: Stadtarchiv Heidelberg)
Schlosshotel (Picture: Stadtarchiv Heidelberg)

How the exhibition was developed

The exhibition is the result of an international collaboration between the Mark Twain Center and the Mark Twain House & Museum in Hartford, Connecticut. Twain lived in Hartford for nearly 20 years and had a magnificent house there which is now home to the principal Mark Twain museum. The Museum provided valuable assistance with the content of the exhibition and advised us about some of the key exhibits.

A separate contribution to our exhibition project was made by students from the Julius Springer School in Heidelberg. With the support of the Hopp Foundation for Computer Literacy & Informatics, the participating students from the technical college had the opportunity to spend six months learning about Design Thinking. Through an intensive process of teamwork they developed their own designs for modern exhibition elements.

Thanks to a generous donation from Sparkasse Heidelberg, the group were able to turn their ideas into reality – a treat in store for our visitors!

Whet your appetite with a brief preview on our website and two short films at:

Exhibition setup MTC (Photo: Stadt Heidelberg)
film shoot  MTC (Photo: Stadt Heidelberg)
Film shoot MTC (Photo: Stadt Heidelberg)

Whet your appetite with a brief preview on our website and two short films at:

Exhibition events

Mark Twain remains a controversial figure, and is much more than the author of the children’s books he is largely known for in Germany. For example, one of the events planned during the exhibition will focus on his views on racism in American society. More information will be available on the website soon.

In addition, we would like to invite you to discover Heidelberg as Mark Twain did. And you can do more than just follow in Twain’s footsteps. We’d like you to describe the unique characteristics of the people of this city in words and images like he did: send us a photo or drawing of a place with a short accompanying text. Who would be on the sharp end of Twain’s pen if he visited Heidelberg today?

We will choose a selection of the submissions we receive and post them on our social media. For the authors chosen we have a very special evening planned at the Mark Twain Center.

Important information

Our opening times are Friday to Sunday from 12.00 noon to 6.00 pm.

Admission to the Mark Twain Center is free.

Please note:

Due to current restrictions, we can only admit a limited number of visitors into the building. A signposted one-way system will take you through the exhibition. Please note that face masks covering nose and mouth must be worn in the Mark Twain Center. Hand sanitizer station can be found at the entrance.