The telephone, the light bulb, the camera – what we now take for granted was revolutionary around 1900. But technical progress had its price, as can be seen by the spittoon for tuberculosis sufferers – an expressive symbol of the poverty-stricken living and working conditions in the old cities. Everything in the Hamburg Museum of Work, housed in a old rubber goods factory, is dominated by one central question. How did industrialisation affect people’s everyday life? The answer can be found in a series of workshops and domestic rooms, machines and plants, tools and household equipment. Visitors are not merely passive consumers. With the aid of trained type-setters they can produced their own printed matter, and mint copper coins on old metal presses.
The museum’s outside sites are the habourmuseum and and the museum at the Speicherstadt with its characteristic north German red brick architecture also promises some fascinating insights. It is right next to the port of Hamburg and used to be a warehouse for coffee, cocoa and other valuable imported goods. Guided tours and tastings bring back to life the rich traditions of the old trading centre.
“Parlograph”: the word sounds almost poetic. That was what dictation machines were known as during the era when there were still such things as trading posts and clerks. In a port like Hamburg they often earned their money with raw materials from overseas. One of these was India rubber and one of the major firms at the time was the New York and Hamburg Rubber Goods Company. It was set up in 1871 in the suburb of Barmbek and quickly grew to a huge business which came to an abrupt end as a result of air-raids during the Second World War. After this the company relocated to Harburg, leaving one of the oldest extant factory sites in Hamburg as a crumbling ruin, sporadically used by small firms and a local arts centre. In 1982 discussions began on whether its should be turned into a museum of work and ten years later the site began to be cleaned up and rebuilt. The old boiler house (1896) was appointed to house the museum workshops, the exhibits are placed in the New Factory which was erected in 1908, which has been given a new third floor to house temporary exhibitions. The museum opened in 1997 and visitors can now see people still working at historic machines where they can even try out their own skills. The aim is to use the machines to give visitors a concrete idea of the realities of work.
The outside branch of the museum at the "Speicherstadt" pursues the same objectives. The neo-gothic façade of the building which was erected around 1900 conceals modern achievements like iron-trellis construction, hydraulic wind power or electric lighting. Everyday life was dictated by the tried-and-test cooperation between two professions which now no longer exist. So-called “quarterers” were responsible to the merchants for storing the goods in an orderly and professional manner. And lightermen were responsible for the smooth transportation of the goods between the ships and the warehouses on their flat-bottomed cargo boats or “lighters”. A variety of different exhibitions in the “Silo-city“ (German: Speicherstadt) museum show exactly how this was done.
|Recommended duration of visit:||2 Hours|
|Duration of a guided tour:||60 Minutes|
|Access for persons with disabilities:||Available|
|Infrastructure for children:|
|Gift and book shop on site:||yes|
Museum of Work:
Tuesday to Saturday 10am-5pm
Sunday, public holiday 10am-6pm
Museum at the "Speicherstadt":
Monday - Friday 10am-5pm
Saturday, Sunday 10am-6pm
April to October
Tuesday - Sunday 10am-6pm