On the occasion of the commemorative year for Maria Sibylla Merian in 2017, 300 years after her death, the regional group of the Bund Naturschutz, together with the Merian School in Nuremberg, created a flower bed specifically to attract butterflies and insects in the “Heilkräutergarten” (Medicinal Herb Garden) at the Hallertor. This was the beginning of their co-operation with Margot and Dieter Lölhöffel, who have long been following in Maria Sibylla Merian's footsteps by highlighting the need to protect butterflies and by demanding more habitat for them.
One year later we saw the 350th anniversary of Maria Sibylla Merian’s arrival in Nuremberg, and we celebrated our own local jubilee year with some new initiatives, all in keeping with the slogan:
“MERIANIN 2018+ New Habitats for Insects”
Our ideas met with considerable support and the Merianin 2018+ project began to grow. Since then we have distributed our own brochure comparing Merian’s research with the needs of bees, bugs and butterflies nowadays.
We have worked out some proposals designed to transform public parks, cemeteries, the outside areas round residential and office buildings, previously neglected waste ground, private gardens and even balconies into little pieces of paradise for insects. Stefan Mümmler, who teaches on environmental issues, goes into schools with caterpillars and the appropriate equipment. Children observe the metamorphosis of the caterpillars and – after some weeks ‒ take the butterflies to the nearest habitat meadow to release them and let them fly away.
Logo representing our intitiative
Our roll-ups presented at the "Botanic Garden Day" in Erlangen in summer 2019
Our very active Children’s Museum offers several programmes and project days which combine the urgent need to protect our environment with Merian’s exemplary work. Together we have produced three major roll-ups:
(1) Merian's life and work, contrasted to the roll-up with
(2) Facts and figures about Nuremberg during the time she and Graff lived here.
(3) The life and work of Johann Andreas Graff are an important complementary theme.
We offer them to workshops in schools, to public events in garden centres or even in the Botanical Garden in Erlangen. These are just a few examples of the many activities taking place under the virtual patronage of Maria Sibylla Merian.
MERIAN AND NUREMBERG
Merian and the socio-cultural tradition in Nuremberg
She is becoming increasingly popular in Nuremberg. Many of the people who live here already know that she was “Frau Gräffin” [Mrs Graff] in her Nuremberg time, but prefer to call her “Merianin” in German, with the feminine ending (-in) on her maiden name, as was usual for her time. People of very different social levels (not only naturalists or art historians) are interested in knowing more about her and about their own city in the second half of the 17th century, a period that has been neglected up to now in scholarly research – as have her husband Johann Andreas Graff and his merits.
In the last two years it has become obvious that people are more attentive towards and cooperative in fighting for new solutions to the problems of our time when they find echoes in their local history and can be proud of their own city’s past.
So we hope that our success will continue and that MERIANIN 2018+ can be deeply rooted in our own tradition. This is an important precondition for our success to continue and to enjoy a lasting effect.
In the near future – starting in the year 2025 – further important events in Merian's life will witness their 350th anniversary, all within a few years of one another. All these accomplishments are closely linked to Nuremberg: here she worked intensively and tirelessly on her first six books. It was here that these six books were published, volumes which to this very day ensure her fame worldwide. If you touch the title pages with your cursor, you will see in which year we can celebrate the 350th anniversary of the publication of one of Merian's books in Nuremberg. Please try it out!
In 1682 Merian returned to Frankfurt with her husband and daughters for family reasons, but one year later her "Second Caterpillar Book" was nonetheless published in Nuremberg. This long-standing, successful relationship with Nuremberg should be one reason for us to remember this world-famous artist and natural scientist in this city more than anywhere else.
But we are not only dealing with memory culture: her research as the "first ecologist" is also ground-breaking, both for our present time and for the future. With Merian’s support as our symbolic patroness we hope that many new meadows will grow as a home for insects as well as colourful flower beds in Nuremberg and its surroundings, where bees, butterflies and other insects find a rich choice of nutrition and like to take up residence.
Therefore the little "+" is an important part of our motto since it points to the future.
The initiative "Merianin 2018+" wants to contribute to, and ensure, our continued enjoyment of the buzzing, fluttering creatures found in Merian’s fascinating copper prints, so that we may marvel at just as many variations of them in the natural world in the future.
Plants in the Maria Sibylla Merian Garden at the Imperial Castle with the copper print of her lilies and bright red beetles
Photo: Dieter Lölhöffel
VIRTUAL MONUMENTS ON THE NET
Not only in Nuremberg is criticism growing that there are far too few public memorials dedicated to extraordinary women. Fierce arguments are raging about where new monuments can be erected in public spaces and streets can be named after women. However, in new suburban neighbourhoods street names attract only scant public attention and suitable locations for monuments are difficult to find. Moreover, design issues often lead to bitter, protracted disputes.
In Nuremberg, fortunate circumstances arising from the redesign of the “Nägeleinsplatz” (an area which used to boast many mills) in the northern part of the old town, coupled with the support of the city council, have resulted in the laying of a ”Merianin-Uferweg” (Merian Riverside Walk). Since 2022 it has formed part of a public park on the banks of the Pegnitz. Furthermore, with the increasing importance of the worldwide web virtual places of remembrance are becoming increasingly important. Therefore, the website www.merianin.de is conceived as a "living monument” into which new academic insights can be integrated in the future.
Margot Lölhöffel at her desk working on the Merian website
(Photo: Medienwerkstatt Franken)
Media Visit 2022
In collaboration with a scholar experienced in women’s history, Nadja Bennewitz, and other experts the Medienwerkstatt Franken has produced a video featuring women who played an important role in the history of Nuremberg at their corresponding locations in Nuremberg's old town. It goes under the title "Nürnbergerinnen zwischen Reformation und Frauenwahlrecht" (Nuremberg Women between the Reformation and Women's Suffrage). It was broadcast on 24 April and 1 May 2022 and can also be permanently viewed on the net as a " virtual memorial".
Merian is even presented - approximately in the middle of the video - at three different locations: at her former home; in the Maria-Sibylla-Merian-Garden on the Kaiserburg; and at a desk with the website www.merianin.de on a screen. Ms Bennewitz's interview does not agree with the research for this website in all its details, but this very fact makes it clear how complex Merian’s image is still, not only in historical novels but also in research, and where there is a need for further in-depth academic studies.