On the 1st of October the Greisinger Museum – currently the world’s largest collection of Tolkien and Lord of the Rings materials - which is situated in the historic town of Jenins in the Grisons, Switzerland, is opening its doors to the public for the first time. The estimated value of the collection which was started in 2005 is in the millions and up. There is no exact number since the value of the items increases constantly.
Middle-Earth was not created in this location by coincidence: the unique view of the Swiss mountain range, framed by the white mountain tops of the so-called Piz Pizol and the Piz Calanda reminds of the beautiful country of Edoras as described in the book. Also, with the small town of Maienfeld (Heidiland) as neighboring village, the museum closes an arch of a topic: literature. The museum thus is a cultural enrichment not only for the region of the Grisons but for Switzerland and Europe as a whole.
For ‘Lord of the Rings’ by Peter Jackson was not only a successful movie trilogy. The famous book trilogy which was written by J.R.R. Tolkien and first published in the years 1954-1955 is the world’s second best selling book with over 150 million copies, followed only by ‘Tale of Two Cities’ by Charles Dickens (source: Wikipedia). “People love fantasy, it allows you to let go of every day life for a few moments,” knows Bernd Greisinger, the director of the Middle-Earth museum.
And this is also what it feels like when you first enter through the door of Bag-End, the residence of the Baggins’ family: the round doors are hobbit sized and humans have to duck under if they don’t want to hit their heads on their way into this awefully cosy three bedroom apartment where the exhibit begins.
The actual museum is accessible through a stairway which begins in the lobby. Every room of the museum was designed after places described in the book. Starting off with a real sized sculpture of the Balrog, who gives you a good scare as part of a detailed exhibit of the mean spirited creatures of the fairytale. A labyrinthic pathway guides through the many rooms and locations of the exhibit which feature life sized sculptures of the creatures, high quality replicas of movie props (the original props are owned by Peter Jackson), several series of original paintings of collector’s cards as well as the most impressive collection of book cover originals and first editions ever seen.
The most important part of this voluminous and impressive collection is presented in the Gondor room, which shows original book covers among others by Tim and Greg Hildebrandt and a glass cabinet (240x360 cm) filled with sculptures of the fantastic creatures. The Greisinger Museum is like a river without an end and most of the books are kept in the archives because the museum is already full. Is he planning to extend his museum? No, says Bernd Greisinger. First, he wants to see how the museum will do financially. “The museum is a foundation. The goal is to make the foundation self supporting by means of entry tickets and a little bit of merchandising.”
Tickets to Middle-Earth are available online. A visiting time has to be arranged via phone or email with the museum management. Understandable, for the museum is located below ground on Bernd Greisinger’s private property. The former financial adviser from Mainz, Germany, lives here with his wife and two children in a multi-family house. He is happy to have made his hobby purpose in life. “With this collection I have fulfilled the dream of many a Tolkien fan.”
With the creation of the museum foundation Bernd Greisinger wants to give back. The websites can be used as a tool to connect the ITF (International Tolkien Fellowship) whose members are always looking for round tables especially while travelling.
“Greisinger Museum already has a very special value among Tolkien fans and in the academic world. ‘Greisinger institute - which will be created in 2014 - was not elected Enqvea Omentielva (the sixth conference of the Tolkien Society) in 2015 for no reason. This conference usually takes place every two years on a University campus.”
Is there anything left to dream of? Yes, says Bernd Greisinger and takes a deep breath: “Silmarillion.” To create another collection of Tolkien’s most important work which was published after his death by Tolkien’s son, would be another project that Bernd Greisinger would love to take on. “But let’s see first how Middle-Earth comes along.”
Also, there would be need of an actual Tolkien museum, finds the museum director: “A Tolkien museum which is dedicated to the written works of J.J.R. Tolkien is still missing,” says Bernd Greisinger, as he puts on his monocle to show me some of the most important works of his collection, among others, the first edition of the book from 1937 (Great Britain), a signed second copy of the first edition, and many, many more.