It’s an all rounder: tough, delicate, shining, decorative. It’s always flexible and it’s quite simply indispensable in everyday life. This amazing material is wire and everybody knows what that is. But if the only thing you associate with the term is barbed wire or wire netting you’re in for a huge and very pleasant surprise when you visit the German Wire Museum in Altena in the Sauerland region, south of the Ruhr. Here you can see everything which has been made from wire down through the years: a coat of chain mail, a super conductor or the enormous wire cable of a modern suspension bridge, not forgetting a practical tea-bag clip, the filament of a light bulb, wafer-thin wires used in electronics and filter techniques, spring mattresses, filigree jewellery and even a wire chain tanga. There are plenty of hands-on activities too. Visitors can try their skills on historic wire-drawing and rolling machines. In the front yard there is a fully-operational – and very loud - so-called beetling bench which was once used for cleaning the layers of scale from wire during the manufacturing process. Musical instruments like pianos and harps are there to experiment on and there are impressive high tech displays of how to measure extremely high temperatures and loads with the help of wire.
It is no surprise that this museum is located in Altena. The industrial history of the town is brimming over with wire-drawers. Not to speak of hooks and eyes which were some of the first products to be made here. The citizens of Altena had been working in the iron trade since the Middle Ages and it was no accident that one of them was the first to draw wire around 1600. The goods were transported as far as Scandinavia and Eastern Europe along the central trading route known as the Hellweg. Membership of the Hanseatic League ensured the economic success of the town. Equally so, the so-called Stapelgesellschaft (lit: batch society), a protective alliance of local businesses which regulated production and turnover.
Altena and the neighbouring town of Iserlohn have remained important centres of the wire industry to the present day. The German Wire Museum exists since 1965. It was originally housed in a part of the mediaeval Altena Fortress but this was soon bursting at the seams. Since 1999 the museum has found a new home in an old school building directly beneath the fortress. The result is a modern exhibition full of activities and surprises covering an area of 750 square metres.
|Recommended duration of visit:||1,5 Hours|
|Duration of a guided tour:||90 Minutes|
|Access for persons with disabilities:||Available|
|Infrastructure for children:|
|Gift and book shop on site:||yes|
Tuesday to Friday 9.30am-5pm
Saturday, Sunday, public holidays 11am-6pm