Friendship books from four centuries in Ulm
We haven’t just been collecting friends since Facebook came into existence: Already in the 16th century the “Album Amicorum”, also called friendship or family book, began its success story.
The small books were particularly popular with young men. During their studies, journeyman migration or educational journey, they collected handwritten entries from friends, professors, fellow students and new acquaintances. They wrote them poems, learned quotations or wisdom in their family books or reminded them of the fun student life with a crude saying. Those who had the necessary money commissioned a painter with a small illustration or painted something themselves: coats of arms, city views, allegories, beautiful women, couples in love or domestic scenes were popular.
Women were less likely than men to have a family book, because their living environments were different and their geographical mobility was often more limited. It was only when the friendship book gradually went out of fashion among young men in the 19th century that the album first turned into a women’s and then a children’s phenomenon: as a poetry album with sweetish sticky pictures and sayings about friendship and good living, it is still popular today, especially among little girls.
In the meantime, social networks have become the most popular collecting media for friends, in which the “followers” are no longer primarily immortalized, but the owners themselves. #Inspirational quotes for self-improvement replace sensitive friendship poetry and bourgeois quotes.
The studio exhibition in the Museum Ulm shows a small history of the family book and the collection of friends with around 70 exhibits from the museum’s holdings, the Haus der Stadtgeschichte – Stadtarchiv Ulm, the Stadtbibliothek Ulm as well as from private collections.
The exhibition is accompanied by a publication with texts by Dr. Eva Leistenschneider and Dr. Gudrun Litz.