Gallery of House Numbers - Prologue

The Gallery of House Numbers features a phenomenon seemingly so natural that it is almost taken for granted: Who can think of anything more common, more mundane and, at the same time, more indispensable - for postal delivery and the police, for tax authorities and visitors to a place - than house numbers? And yet, their systematic implementation dates back to no later than the second half of the eighteenth century. Subject to fervent dispute; it had to cope with manifold problems and occasionally even resistance.

Remnants of house numbers still extant on some buildings bear witness to the huge efforts the implementation and maintenance of a numerical addressing system necessitated. The photographs brought together in this gallery offer a selection of such remnants, their geographical focus being on towns and villages which once belonged to the domain of the Habsburg Monarchy. In those regions house numbering fell within the context of the so-called "conscription of souls", i.e. a census taken not least on behalf of military purposes - hence the term "conscription numbers". It is a particular concern of the Gallery to provide some extra information as regards both the historical and geographical background.

The Gallery, which aims to make perceptible the historicity of order, is a spin-off of a PhD thesis entitled "The order of houses, the description of souls - house numbering in the Habsburg Monarchy", which was completed under the supervision of professors Dr. Edith Saurer and Dr. Karl Vocelka and submitted to the Department of History of Vienna University.


Anton Tantner

> Start of the exhibition