Under construction: Visit to the Altenberg zinc works, host of the ERIH Annual Conference

There will be two parallel venues for the 16th ERIH Annual Conference next Wednesday and Thursday: the Altenberg Zinc Works LVR Industrial Museum in Oberhausen, Germany, and the Internet. This hybrid concept in response to the Covid-19 pandemic is a novelty. Online and offline, participants will discuss generational change and knowledge transfer in the industrial heritage sector under the headline "Keeping the Wheels Turning". The setting consists of an exhibition area currently undergoing major renovation.

On the occasion of European Heritage Day on 13 September, the Altenberg Zinc Works LVR Industrial Museum made its first opening to visitors since early 2019 – and confronted them with an almost deserted factory hall. This is what it looks like when, as done here, an all-new display concept is being developed. Nearly all the walls and fixtures of the previous exhibition have been taken away, as well as most of the approximately 1,300 objects – from a heavy steam locomotive to steel dentures. The exhibits are stored in the depot and may be reactivated for special exhibitions.

Remaining items include a ten metre high steam forging hammer dating back to 1900 and the original zinc plant installations such as a rolling frame, circular casting equipment, a smelting furnace and a flywheel. Extending around them is a 3,000 square metre factory hall, once again in its original state, featuring steel girders across the entire building.

The architecture of the zinc works and its atmosphere as a factory are supposed to play a major role in the new exhibition, which is already well advanced in design. Right at the entrance and back from the depot, visitors will find the Series 50 steam locomotive No. 2429 of Krupp AG flanked by the rotating flywheel. Machines in operation, a section devoted to the latest industrial developments from 1980 onwards, a 600 square metre area for special exhibitions and a museum shop and café with outdoor catering will be further highlights of the visit.

The ERIH Annual Conference is the last event to take place in the still remaining workshop facilities. The old shop and café are also unchanged. Reconstruction of these last installations is already scheduled. As part of the conference agenda, museum staff will offer guided tours on the state of the renovations.

Altenberg Zinc Works LVR Industrial Museum. Oberhausen (D) 
Zinkfabrik Altenberg. Ein Blog zum Umbau der Dauerausstellung (German)
ERIH Conference 2020