The University of Vienna is one of the oldest universities in Europe. The anniversary year was packed with numerous events and exhibitions that offered a look into the University's chequered history.
People who want to get in-depth information on and various insights into the history of the Alma Mater Rudolphina should go to the interactive website "650 years - History of the University of Vienna" containing more than 130 topics and articles.
There was a cultural highlight back at the start of the year. The Main Building of the University of Vienna on the Ringstrasse was the setting for two ballet recordings (filmed in the summer of 2014) of the New Year’s Concert 2015 by the Vienna Philharmonic orchestra. The choreography for the "Studentenpolka" and the "Wine, Women and Song" waltz by Johann Strauss the Younger in the Arcaded Courtyard, on the Philosophenstiege stairs, in the Large Reading Room and in the ceremonial chambers of the University of Vienna on 1 January 2015 acted as a prelude to the big anniversary celebrations and also gave the University of Vienna worldwide visibility. For the US television broadcast, the Oscar winner Julie Andrews was the presenter in the Main Ceremonial Chamber of the University of Vienna.
Appreciation of people’s achievements marked the day of honorary awards on 13 May 2015. In addition to the "sub auspiciis" graduation in which Austrian Federal President Heinz Fischer honoured doctoral candidates who excelled throughout their studies, internationally renowned academics were presented with honorary doctorates from the University of Vienna – including Martin Karplus, laureate of the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 2013, and the internationally renowned author and literary scholar Ruth Klüger (who was awarded the honorary doctorate on 11 June 2015). Those honoured also include the historian John Boyer, the microbiologist Hanna Engelberg-Kulka, the lawyer Heinrich Honsell and the mathematician Maxim Kontsevich.
The exhibition "Vienna 1365. Creating a University" was on display from March to May 2015 in the Austrian National Library. It was dedicated to the wide panorama of the European university landscape at the end of the Middle Ages and showed more than 100 exhibits from the Middle Ages up to the Renaissance. The exhibition really made the eventful early years of the Alma Mater Rudolphina come alive again.
The exhibition "The Knowledge of Things" in the Vienna Natural History Museum, which could be visited from May 2015 onwards, displayed many items from the teaching and research collections of the University of Vienna from 1755 to the present date. These included the aesthetic glass models of marine invertebrates by Leopold and Rudolph Blaschka.
The exhibition "The Vienna Circle – Exact Thinking in Demented Times" also started in May 2015. It informed visitors about the history of the academic circle (1924-1936) around Moritz Schlick. It is the most comprehensive exhibition to date which deals with the work and the philosophical questions of the Vienna Circle and was held in newly adapted premises in the Main Building of the University of Vienna. In the 1920s, the Vienna Circle – a group of exceptional thinkers – used to meet at the University of Vienna to come up with important ideas that would later have a significant influence on the fields of research of the 20th century – and their ideas still have a big influence on research today.
Until well into the 19th century and in the "dark chapter" of the 20th century, openness and transparency were not always guaranteed at universities: In particular, this affected women and also people who were persecuted or displaced on racial grounds or because of their beliefs, religion, social affiliation or for supporting democracy. Many activities in the anniversary year were therefore dedicated to the theme of coming to terms with the University’s twentieth-century past. The touring exhibition "Bedrohte Intelligenz – Von der Polarisierung und Einschüchterung zur Vertreibung und Vernichtung im NS-Regime" (threatened scholarship – from polarisation and intimidation to Nazi expulsion and extermination) displayed the institutional and personal changes following the annexation to the Third Reich, the Nazification of the University and the suffering of the victims of National Socialism at the University of Vienna.
The exhibition "Universität Wien – das Hauptgebäude an der Ringstraße" (University of Vienna – its Main Building on Vienna’s Ringstrasse) was dedicated to the building’s history and was a contribution from the University of Vienna for the 150-year anniversary of the opening of Vienna’s Ringstrasse. Architectural plans, notes from archives and press clippings provided a glimpse of the shared history of the Ringstrasse boulevard and the University of Vienna’s building. The exhibition also addressed the scandal over Gustav Klimt’s University of Vienna Ceiling Paintings and today’s exterior of the Main Building of the University of Vienna.
From April to October 2015 the exhibition "Vom AKH zum Uni-Campus" (from the General Hospital to the University Campus) ran in the library of the Department of Contemporary History. The change of the area was depicted by plans, photographs and publications and explored different aspects of the area.