An invitation to northern Europe

Back from the ERIH Annual Conference at Copenhagen and Frederiksvaerk, Denmark

How can industrial heritage attractions and modern factory tourism benefit and learn from each other? Should ERIH encourage further links between industrial heritage tourism and factory tourism? And how should the connections between past and modern industry be communicated to current and future generations? Can we address new audiences with this kind of offers? This year’s annual ERIH conference that gathered about 60 participants from various European countries in Denmark was a first step to respond to these questions.

Living Industry: Best Practice


Right at the beginning the delegates of three ERIH anchor points offered exciting insights in living industry experiences available at their sites. In 2012, the city council of S. João da Madeira near Porto in northern Portugal launched an Industrial Tourism project that supports the region’s industrial heritage by documenting the industrial past in specialized museums while providing public access to companies still operational in both traditional and innovative sectors. Visitors can choose from a set of industrial tourist circuits and experience ongoing production, including industries as diverse as footwear, hats, pencils, mattresses, and textile labels.

Also the Fagus Factory in Alfeld, Germany, – the only World Heritage Site still in operation – has successfully implemented tourist marketing initiatives. The large window plant was built by Walter Gropius (1883-1969) in 1911. Originally specialised in the production of shoe lasts and moulds the factory diversified its operations into fire protection and measuring systems. A third mainstay is the visitor management accounting for events, exhibitions and guided tours demonstrating operating facilities and the company museum. For the events, the production hall is emptied during weekends.

For the ERIH Anchor Point Abenteuer Erzberg (Erzberg Adventure) in Eisenerz, Austria, living industry experiences are a key objective. Central Europe’s largest open-pit mining with an annual output of three million tonnes of ore welcomes visitors to explore the area in full operation from the top of a truck that is literally as high as a house. Abenteuer Erzberg is part of the Central European INTERREG project InduCult 2.0 uncovering the cultural resources of current industries by connecting industrial heritage sites with relevant pioneering companies of the creative industries. Public installations, festivals focusing on industrial culture, and other tourist attractions highlight the industrial past and present and promote its significance precisely for remote or peripheral areas of Central Europe.

Not least, living industry is emphasized by the industrial fabric of Kryvyi Rih, a large city in central Ukraine which boasts dozens of operating iron ore mines including the deepest pit throughout Europe at 1,620 metres, and is home to Europe’s largest and deepest open pit mine and various industrial heritage sites and museums. Thus, the region’s industrial development then and now is closely juxtaposed. One of the most spectacular visitor attractions is the underground tour of an operating mine to a depth of 1,350 metres. Presentation on YouTube

PR event 2018, panel discussions and excursions

The best practice part was followed by the introduction of a pan-European ERIH performance celebrating the European Year of Cultural Heritage 2018 (EYCH 2018). The Frankfurt based PR agency Transparent Design, winner of an ERIH agency pitch, presented the dance event “Work it Out” which is set to include as much ERIH sites as possible. Subsequent panel discussions explored the event’s applicability and implementation as well as the conference’s initial question of linking industrial heritage tourism and factory tourism.

The appropriate setting of the conference was provided by the former royal cannon foundry Gjethuset at Frederiksvaerk near Copenhagen which is today one of Denmark’s most important national heritage sites. In the afternoon, a guided tour took the participants to the worker’s dwellings and the powder works of Frederiksvaerk. An atmospheric dinner with piano music concluded the conference day.

Further excursions were scheduled for the next morning, with the Diesel House opening the sightseeing programme. The building is home to a towering 22.500 hp Diesel motor of 1933 which extends over several floors and used to be the largest motor of its kind during 30 years. A well-structured exhibition recounts the history of the Diesel technology from the end of the nineteenth century until today. The following visit headed towards the famous Carlsberg brewery, established in 1847, to explore the company museum that includes the largest collection of unopened beer bottles in the world and attracts visitors with beer tastings at the end of the tour.

Frank Allan Rasmussen and Marie Bach and their team of the Industrimuseet Frederiks Vaerk (Industrial Museum Frederiksvaerk) hosted the conference in a most prudent and dedicated way. We say a very sincere thank you to them and all speakers for an exciting ERIH convention 2017!

The presentations
Images of the conference
Movie of the conference