Sigmund Freud is the most well-known psychologist in the science’s history. Ask anyone to name someone associated with psychology and chances are it is Freud that they’ll name. But it is not just in psychology that we see Freud’s legacy – he has left quite a few museums in his wake. In this blog post I’m discussing the Freud Museum in Vienna, Sigmund’s former home and office. There’s another Freud Museum in London, where the family relocated during World War II.
If I wanted to go into detail, I could go a bit further and discuss how both of these Freud Museums are great examples of Historic House Museums. The one in London and the one in Vienna recreate aspects of the Freud family’s life, and Sigmund’s practice in particular although both touch on Anna Freud’s significant work too. Vienna’s Freud Museum owes a lot to Anna Freud. Much of what’s on display is due to her involvement. From the archive film footage of the Freud family, to the heirlooms littering the museum, Anna’s reverence for her father is clear.
Or, maybe, I just revealed a bit more about myself than I realised in that interpretation.
Despite this clear reverence, I couldn’t help but think… “Freud was a bit of a quack, wasn’t he?” In the LA Times, Todd Dufresne wrote “Arguably no other notable figure in history was as wrong as Freud was about every important thing he had to say,” and goes on at length about this. My reasoning is a bit more straight-forward. The Museum tells the story of how Freud cured a colleague’s morphine addiction by getting him addicted to cocaine.
But cocaine is the less well-known of Freud’s vices. He enjoyed a cigar or two, but a cigar was just that, or so the saying goes.
On a side note – we’re not really sure if Freud made that quip about the cigars. It is likely to have just been attributed to the famous smoker. In an apartment block in the middle of Vienna, the Freuds’ home was not the most spacious of places. The office and the waiting room were particularly dark and cramped. It wasn’t hard to imagine the thick fug of cigar smoke filling the rooms.
What I’ve always found fascinating about Freud was his collection of ancient artefacts, and his obsession with Ancient Greece. It is something that pervaded his practice, look no further than the infamous Oedipus Complex for an example. His London home was riddled with Sphinxes. Not to be outdone, his Viennese residence has a display of ancient artefacts too.
This one made me chuckle.
Who wouldn’t want a stone willy in their collection?
Earlier, I mentioned that the Freud family fled Vienna during the Second World War. They were fortunate enough to relocate to London, but not without a massive cost (financial and otherwise). We learn how Freud brought his doctor and house-maid along, but not two of his sisters. In a recording, we hear Freud himself say how much he missed speaking his native language.
All of this left quite an impression on me.
Despite being about one man, about one personality, the museum deals with a lot of complexity. What makes me chuckle is that the complexity doesn’t arise from the theories and the jargon but rather from the man and the times he lived through.