Today, entertainment and knowledge come to us via television, the internet and DVDs, but there was a time when all this happened at the inn. Puppeteers who went from town to town in their caravans told funny or sad stories with their marionettes. At fairs, Kasper gave a thrashing to the policeman, to Death and the devil, putting a smile on the faces of old and young alike. Today the long-serving veterans of the stage are enjoying their retirement, inviting us to have a close look at them.
Different parts of the collection are presented at the Jägerhof every year. Dr. Faust, Kasper, knights, robbers, Little Red Riding Hood: The holdings range from 200-year-old, large marionettes to hand puppets from fairs, Bauhaus figures and the sandman to works from our millennium. With more than 100,000 items, the collection is one of the largest and most significant of its kind in the world. Among the most valuable objects are figures and stage scenery from nineteenth-century mechanical theatre, or theatrum mundi, which can be found nowhere else in this condition.
The collection can be traced to the Leipzig teacher Otto Link (1888–1959). He was editor of the first German puppeteering magazine and a co-founder of UNIMA, the international organization of puppeteers, in Prague in 1929. In 1952, the puppet theatre collection was established in Dresden and Link became its first director. Its growing holdings were presented in numerous travelling exhibitions. From 1960 to 2003, the collection was housed in the Hohenhaus in the town of Radebeul, and in 2004 it was moved to St. Martin’s Garrison Church in Dresden. 2005 marked the beginning of regular exhibitions at the Jägerhof.
Scripts, letters, advertisements, pictures and films are all in the collection in great numbers, especially material from the region. They are a valuable source for research as Saxony has historically been an important hub of puppet theatre: Around 1900, more than 150 theatres travelled the region. In the 1930s, a fifth of all the top-ranking puppet theatre troupes came from Saxony. Today as well, audiences are wowed by eighty private troupes but also by the five communal ensembles which still exist in Bautzen, Chemnitz, Dresden, Leipzig and Zwickau.