A look behind the scenes of the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna. It’s a pleasure to follow the camera on its extended forays through the magnificent halls and well-stocked storage rooms, listening in on the exhibition curators and lingering with interest by the restorers. All those working in the midst of these artistic treasures and portraits are almost on first-name terms with them and their Habsburg benefactors; for some, this stately heritage feels like a ball and chain.
Fulfilling a museum’s lofty duties in the modern day – collection, preservation, research, exhibition and communication – requires good management. As some examine paintings almost tenderly for insect damage, countless meetings revolve around budget planning, marketing campaigns and visits from politicians. The film observes this balancing act between maintaining a time-honoured institution of memory and offering modern cultural services without casting judgement. Only the now retired director of the Collection of Arms and Armour can permit himself to remark that all that smooth marketing talk could equally be applied to toothpaste. And then he feeds brie and walnuts to the pigeons on his office window sill.