The foundations of industry in Rüsselsheim were laid by Adam Open (1837-95) who began making sewing machines in the town in 1862, and diversified into the production of bicycles and, from 1898 began to make motorcars. His company prospered, and the American corporation General Motors took a majority stake in 1929. Features of the factory are its lengthy southern façade and the 52 m high Opel Tower of 1930.
The museum opened in 1976, and won praise throughout Europe. The basic arrangement of displays is chronological, but it deals imaginatively with the history of industry, particularly with labour issues and the experience of work.