Oberösterreichisches Landesmuseum

Oberösterreichisches Landesmuseum


other names: Museum Francisco Carolinum (1833/95–1920), Museum des Reichsgaues Oberdonau (1940–1945), Gaumuseum Linz (1938–1945)


The history of the Oberösterreichisches Landesmuseum dates back to the first half of the nineteenth century. In 1833, Reichsritter Anton von Spaun founded the "Verein des vaterländischen Museums für Österreich ob der Enns mit Inbegriff des Herzogthums Salzburg". The collection and research activities, initially supported solely by private benefactors, were divided into four categories: history, art, natural sciences and technology. In 1895, the contents of the Francisco-Carolinum Museum, named after its first patron, Archduke Franz Karl, were moved to a new building designed in the Historicist style by Bruno Schmitz and officially opened by Emperor Franz Joseph. It remains the headquarters of the Oberösterreichisches Landesmuseum, as the museum has been called since 1920, when patronage was assumed by the province of Upper Austria. The director at the time was the art historian Hermann Ubell, who had joined the museum in 1903 as curator of the art and cultural collections, and was its director from 1908 until his retirement in 1937. He was succeeded by the long-standing curator of the natural science department Theodor Kerschner.

After the annexation of Austria in 1938, the Landesmuseum was officially renamed Museum des Reichsgaues Oberdonau in accordance with the Ostmark Law of 1940. It hoped to acquire greater importance because of the special status of the Gau Oberdonau as the region where Hitler was born. The collection and research activities thereafter were guided by Hitler's cultural plans for Linz. While the planned "Führermuseum" in Linz was intended to house an art collection of super-regional significance, the Gau museum would have more of a regional focus. One result of this was the establishment of a folk art department headed by Franz Lipp. The art historian and folk art specialist Marianne Taub, who had been chancery clerk in the museum since 1932, had to leave. Because of her father's Jewish background, she was classified as a "first-degree Mischling" and permanently retired in May 1938. The art and culture department was headed from 1937 by the art historian Heinrich Justus Schmidt from Vienna. At his suggestion, in 1940 just under 400 items from the collections of Alphonse and Louis Rothschild, Rudolf Gutmann, David Goldmann and Otto Pick were transferred to Linz from the Zentraldepot für beschlagnahmte Sammlungen (Central Depot for Seized Collections) in the Vienna Hofburg. Numerous objects from collections expropriated by the Gestapo in Linz were also acquired, including paintings and drawings belonging to the businessman Walther Schwarz and art objects from Antiquitätenhandlung Töpfer. The museum also took charge of the art collections expropriated from abbeys and monasteries in Upper Austria. As the war progressed, it became increasingly difficult for the museum to operate, and from 1944 onwards extensive salvage operations also took place. Items were stored in abbeys seized by the Gau, including Hohenfurth/Vyšší Brod, and in Schloss Starhemberg in Eferding.

After the end of the Nazi rule, Theodor Kerschner retired from the museum on account of his NSDAP membership. Heinrich Justus Schmidt became interim director. Although he had not been a member of the Party, as culture representative of the Gauleiter Oberdonau he had purchased art objects in occupied France for the Gau. He left the museum in 1948 for health reasons. In the years immediately after the war, various objects acquired during the Nazi era were restituted, especially items from Viennese collections. Many applied art objects, items from the technology collection, artworks expropriated from monasteries and abbeys and the objects left over in the American Collecting Point administration remained for decades in the museum's inventory, as demonstrated by a research project by the province of Upper Austria in the early 2000s, which was carried out by the University of Linz. In 2002 the province of Upper Austria passed the Provincial Law on Restitution Measures for Victims of National Socialism (OÖ Restitutionsgesetz, LGBL. 29/no. 2). Since then, the Landesmuseum has restituted objects from the collections of Alphonse and Louis Rothschild (2000), Victor Ephrussi (2000), Martha Neumann (2003), Walter Schwarz (2009), Vyšší Brod abbey (2009), Ignatz Pick (2010, 2016), Antiquitätenhandlung Töpfer (2010), Oskar Reichel (2013), Margarete and Georg Bittner (2013, 2017) and Malvine Stern (2017). The current status of restitutions and unresolved cases are published on the Oberösterreichisches Landesmuseum website.

Author Info
Publications about the person / institution

Birgit Kirchmayr/Friedrich Buchmayr/Michael John, Geraubte Kunst in Oberdonau, Linz 2007.

Bernhard Prokisch, Das Museum Francisco-Carolinum. Baugeschichte. In: Oberösterreichisches Landesmuseum (Hg.), 150 Jahre Oberösterreichisches Landesmuseum, Linz 1983, 43–54.

Benno Ulm, Das älteste Kulturinstitut des Landes, in: Oberösterreichisches Landesmuseum (Hg.), 150 Jahre Oberösterreichisches Landesmuseum, Linz 1983.

Publications by the person / institution

OÖ Landes-Kultur GmbH, Provenienzforschung, URL: www.ooekultur.at/sammlungen (17.3.2023).


Oberösterreichisches Landesarchiv (OÖLA), Musealarchiv, Direktionsakten 1938–1945ff, Kunsthistorische Abteilung 1938–1945ff.