The Mammut is still alive, at least at the Emsland Moorland Museum in Geeste. "Mammut" is the name of a massive 30-ton steam plough made by Ottomeyer in the 1940s. The only one of its kind in the world, it ploughed the ground up to two metres deep and was pulled by four locomobiles, two of which are, along with the plough, preserved shown in the museum. Apart from that, the Moorland Museum owns the world’s largest preserved peat excavator, whereas small tools refer to the times when peat was still cut by hand. Thus, the collection illustrates the development of regional peat mining from its origins to the beginning of industrial peat extraction in the early 20th century, including the environmental impact on the flora and fauna of the moors. There is plenty of space to do that: in addition to two exhibition halls covering around 2,500 square metres, visitors are invited to explore a 30 hectare outdoor area with hiking routes, a nature trail, planked boardwalks and a 30-minute ride on a narrow-gauge railway that was once used to transport peat. As a refreshment, the museum café serves local food, such as buckwheat pancakes or sausages from Bentheim pigs. The pigs and other traditional and endangered species domestic animals are bred by the museum itself - on a reconstructed farm which also belongs to the outdoor area to show the living conditions of early settlers.
By 1920 at the latest, peat extraction had become a leading industry throughout northwestern Germany. The Prussian government did its best to promote wasteland cultivation and peat harvesting in the 19th century, lending massive support to the industry and even establishing a "Central Moor Commission". After the Second World War, this process even gains momentum, covering in the Emsland, the county of Bentheim and the former state of Oldenburg turns into the opposite: In order to settle war refugees and improve food supplies, large areas of moorland and heathland are rapidly cultivated for farming. This also applies to the Bourtanger Moor, where the Emsland Moormuseum is located. The once largest contiguous moorland area in Western Europe, covering more than 2,000 square kilometres, is reduced to a few isolated moor areas. In the 1970s, this led to the need to document the moorland’s natural and industrial heritage in a museum context. The Emsland Moorland Museum dates back to this period. At that time the agricultural restructuring of the region was largely completed, leaving large Ottomeyer machines such as steam locomobiles, deep ploughs and bulldozers unused. The local heritage and tourism association, the Heimat- und Verkehrsverein Groß Hesepe e.V., was granted permission to present them in an exhibition.
Meanwhile the Emsland Moorland Museum is one of Lower Saxon’s leading museums and holds Europe's largest collection devoted to fenland, peat and wasteland cultivation. Its location within the German-Dutch ‚International Natural Park Bourtanger Moor – Bargerveen‘ means that it is surrounded by one of Germany’s most extensive moorlands. It won numerous awards and addresses the above mentioned issues in the context of their cultural, technical and natural history. The museum is internationally well connected in terms of research and education and houses a broad collection including corresponding research facilities. Today they form the basis of the museum and, apart from the three-kilometre light railway, rank among the technical highlights of the collection. In 1984 the first exhibition hall was built, followed by an additional building to host the administration and the museum café in 1992. Further extensions make the Emsland Moorland Museum the first choice in Europe in terms of moor, peat and wasteland cultivation. Furthermore it is kind of developing into a major European documentation and research centre as to the mentioned issues. As such it holds, among many other examples, one of the most important special collections on the subject of peat harvesting technology as well as extensive archive resources of books, photos and technical drawings.
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March to October:
Tuesday - Sunday 10am-6pm