New Director of the German East Frisian Tea Museum

Wenzhuo Liu

In 2021, the East Frisian Tea Museum in northern Germany welcomed a new director, Mirjana Ćulibrk, she was born in Wilhelmshaven, northern Germany. After graduating with a master’s degree in archaeology and museum management, she has been working in related fields. The Tea Museum not only showcases the tea culture of the local East Frisian region, but also showcases tea cultures from different countries and regions, with a small area dedicated to introducing Chinese tea culture. Mirjana has had a habit of drinking tea since childhood, and her experiences of travelling abroad have allowed her to experience the tea culture of Arab countries and the United Kingdom. She is particularly concerned about the exchange of various tea cultures. The East Frisian Tea Museum emphasizes China’s significant influence on East Frisian tea culture and looks forward to future exchanges and cooperation with Chinese tea museums.

Mirjana graduated with a master’s degree in archaeology from the Free University of Berlin in 2012. After participating in multiple excavations in Germany and the Middle East, she chose to specialize in museum work. Influenced by her immigrant family since childhood, Mirjana has developed a habit of drinking tea. During her study abroad experience, the tea culture of Arab countries and the United Kingdom have left a deep impression on her. She recalled drinking tea with local Arabs, although she didn’t know the language, she experienced the exchange of tea culture during the process of brewing and drinking tea. Worked at the Baden-Württemberg State Museum and the Heringen Castle Museum in Thüringen, for several years, she returned to her hometown area of the northern coast and chose to work in Norden, a coastal city in Lower Saxony, at the East Frisian Tea Museum. In 2021, Mirjana began serving as the director of the East Friesland Tea Museum in Germany. The work of the Tea Museum is very unique. Generally, the exhibits in the museum are preserved in history, but the items in the Tea Museum are indeed very vivid and still used in the daily lives of the East Frisian people.

The predecessor of the East Frisian Tea Museum was the Local History Museum. In the early 1920s, the Norderland Heritage Association (Heimatverein Norderland e.V.) opened a local history museum in the old town hall of Norden. Since the 1980s, it has developed into the East Frisian Tea Museum. The main building of the museum is the Old City Hall, built in the 13th/14th century and of great historical value. The main building is of great historical value and was once the old city hall, built in the 13th or 14th century. Other buildings used for exhibition purposes were also built in the 16th century, and the museum displays tea sets with typical East Frisian rose decorative patterns, as well as local specialty blended black tea. Visitors can also enjoy the East Frisian tea ceremony through reservations. The East Frisian tea ceremony emerged in the second half of the 17th century and has a history of over 300 years. It was designated as a World Intangible Cultural Heritage in 2016, and today, people in East Frisian still maintain this tea drinking habit in their daily lives.

In addition to managing exhibitions and events, Mirjana also focuses on mediation, preservation and collection management, as well as cultural asset protection. She is particularly concerned about the museum’s exchange of various cultures. She hopes to showcase the world of tea from various aspects of culture and science. The East Frisian Tea Museum specializes in showcasing tea cultures from different countries and regions, including Japanese tea culture, Russian tea culture, British tea culture, and Indian tea culture. There is a small area dedicated to introducing Chinese tea culture, and tourists can learn about Chinese tea culture by watching selected Chinese tea sets.

The East Frisian Tea Museum is open to cooperation and exchange among museum experts. In the future, Mirjana hopes to cooperate with relevant experts from China’s tea museums to strengthen international tea culture exchange through joint exhibitions and other means. She specifically emphasized that historically, without Chinese tea culture, the tea culture of East Frisian could not have existed. Only through the emergence and development of maritime tea routes and trading companies from Europe to Asia, as well as exchanges with China, did porcelain and tea come to East Frisia. China plays an important role in the history and cultural formation of East Frisian tea, and the East Frisian Tea Museum always emphasizes this aspect during tea ceremonies and visits.

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