The Heeresgeschichtliches Museum relies heavily on artefacts; many weapons and other trinkets have been collected from all kinds of skirmishes, from the Turkish sieges in the 17th century all the way up to the Second World War.
The building is a piece of living history in itself. Built in 1850, it has the honour of being the first Viennese museum, documenting Austria’s military history from the Habsburg empire at the end of the 16th century up until 1918. Perhaps the most interesting and unique exhibition is the actual shirt Franz Ferdinand was wearing when he was assassinated, sparking the tinderbox that would lead to the annihilation of tens of millions in the First World War. Oh, and the car he was shot in.
The period of Austrofascism and subsequent National Socialism in the 30’s is also dealt with extensively. Austria endured many horrors during the Second World War and has had its own peculiar difficulties in dealing with its fallout; the Wien Museum, for example, mysteriously omits from its permanent ‘History of Vienna’ exhibition any mention of the world post-Jugendstil; this uneasiness still pervades.
The variety of exhibits is astonishing. There are military vehicles and weapons, canons you could live inside. Interestingly, there are also burnt-out tanks, aviation engines shorn of propellers, and other ‘destroyed’ objects, which really highlights the vulnerability of machinery. More than anything, this interesting aspect really brings home how people could be mangled when operating it. Located close to Hauptbahnhof, this museum is something of a must-see.