For centuries, the Danube was an untamed natural space. The river and its banks obeyed the dynamics of the water and the changing seasons, with occasionally major floods several times a year. This did not change until the 19th century, when the Habsburg Monarchy set itself the task of taming the river and opening up a huge economic and cultural area.
In 1870, 150 years ago this year, work began on the regulation of the Danube in Vienna, at the same time as it was being romanticised as a natural paradise. Artists, literary figures and musicians glamorised the River Danube, with the painter Rudolf von Alt creating a visionary panorama of Vienna for the 1873 World Exhibition with monumental buildings that were never built.
In the large special exhibition "The Danube", this and other extraordinary works from the Austrian National Library invite visitors on a "journey into the past". The Danube is presented as both a border and a link, as a space of yearning for artists and as a traffic route. And of course it is also about natural disasters and natural areas worth protecting.
The highlight of the exhibition is a spectacular 44-meter-long reproduction of the famous Pasetti map. This map, published by the Imperial-Royal State Ministry under the direction of Florian von Pasetti in 1862, shows an extremely precise image of the Danube in the territory of the Habsburg Monarchy from Passau to the Iron Gate. Its purpose at that time was to create public awareness of the political and economic importance of this waterway for the entire Austro-Hungarian Empire. Today, after the major regulatory measures and the construction of numerous power stations, it is a reminder of a Danube that no longer exists.