Forst stands on the River Lausitzer Neisse, since 1945 the border between Germany and Poland. It was recognised as a city within the margraviate of Brandenburg in 1265, and was part of Prussia from 1815. As early as 1700 some 50 master clothiers were trading in the area, producing buckskin, a heavy woollen cloth. The first spinning mill was opened in 1821 and the steam-powered factory began operation in 1844. The textile industry was stimulated by the opening of the railway from Sorau (now Zary in Poland) to Cottbus in 1872 and by 1885 there were 56 factories in the town with many more workshops.
Forst was known as the Ostdeutsches Manchester, although its speciality was woollen cloth designed for making suits rather than the cotton for which the English Manchester was famous. It was commonly supposed in the early twentieth century that one in five Germans had a suit made from cloth woven in Forst, and the city’s millowners exported their products to Scandinavia, Poland and the United Kingdom. The woollen mills re-opened after the city was damaged in the closing stages of the Second World War but all closed were after the reunification of Germany.
The museum opened in 1995 in a four-storey polychrome brick factory built in 1897 by Daniel Noack. Its exhibits cover the preparation of wool, and its subsequent spinning, weaving and finishing, as well as other aspects of the social and economic history of the Forst region. Machines are regularly demonstrated and there are programmes for schoolchildren.
In 1893 a 1000mm. gauge local railway (Kleinbahn) known as Schwarze Jule (Black Jules) was opened, running through the streets to deliver lignite (brown coal) to the factories. It closed in 1965 but in 2012 one of its locomotives was returned to Forst from the former DDR transport museum in Dresden.