{Germany} Energie-Museum Berlin

August 13, 2012

Germany

I discovered Berlin’s Energy Museum by chance, while reading through the list of participants for the next Lange Nacht der Museen (Long Night of Museums) at the end of August. The museum has no regular opening hours and visits are by guided tour and appointment only but you know me, I just had to arrange one ;-)

Energie Museum Berlin - Energy Museum Berlin

Exterior of the museum building (Photograph courtesy of the Energie-Museum Berlin).

As the name implies, the Energy Museum is devoted to energy production and the technology surrounding it, specifically electrical engineering. It’s located in a disused energy storage plant, which was decommissioned in 1994 when Berlin was connected to the West German network, next to an equally disused power station. Displayed over several floors in a  2000 square metre exhibition space (with another 4000 square metres storage space in their depot), the collection covers the areas of power station technology, district heating, switchgear, network technology, transformers, shielding methods, measuring and regulation technology, radio technology, communication, lighting, and applications technology.

Energie Museum Berlin - Energy Museum Berlin - high voltage switchgear

View of the exhibition on high voltage switchgear (Photograph courtesy of the Energie-Museum Berlin).

From models of power station to full scale distribution grid stations and everything in between, it’s hard not to be impressed by the immense scale of many of the objects, even those just displayed in parts. For example, there’s a 4 metre long thermometer for measuring the temperature in the exhaust ducts of gas turbines. There’s lots of unique little things to see too, such as the evolution of turbine blades or what is probably Europe’s biggest cable collection (which looks kind of cool when they’re all lined up). And did you know that Citróen’s trademark angled stripes come from the pattern of the double helical gear that André Citróen was involved in manufacturing? At the museum you can see some examples of gearing from power station pumps with the familiar herringbone pattern. There are also some functioning exhibits, some of which visitors are even allowed to work themselves, but at this size and subject matter beware – it can get very loud!

Energie Museum Berlin - Energy Museum Berlin - distribution grid station

Distribution grid station (Photograph by Jenni Fuchs).

The museum is run entirely by volunteers via the supporting friends’ association, which was founded in 2001 and currently has around 110 members, and finances itself through membership fees and donations. The energy company Vattenfall also provides them with the building and electricity free of charge. The museum gets between 2000 and 2500 visitors a year, but as visits are by guided tour only, they’re actually at full capacity with the volunteers currently able and available to do tours. Visitors come from all kinds or backgrounds, from technology enthusiasts to nursery groups, and I’m told the youngest visitors are especially amazed when the working pneumatic delivery chute delivers Mars bars when it’s demonstrated ;-)

Energie Museum Berlin - Energy Museum Berlin - cable collection

Part of the cable collection (Photograph by Jenni Fuchs).

The museum is currently working on a special exhibition on electric street lights, to mark the 130th anniversary of these first being permanently installed in Berlin. They’re also looking to recruit more volunteers to expand their offer of tours and increase their annual capacity. So, next time you’re in Berlin and looking for something a little different to do, go and check out the Energy Museum!

Energie Museum Berlin - Energy Museum Berlin -

Turbocharged boiler feed pump with (Photograph courtesy of the Energie-Museum Berlin).

Many thanks to Klaus G. Krämer, Chair of the Energy Museum’s Friends’ Association, for taking the time to chat with me and show me around the museum.

 

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