{Germany} The fascinating world of hemp

January 13, 2014

Germany

The Hanf Museum in Berlin Mitte takes its place alongside Amsterdam, Barcelona and Bologna as one of four hemp museums worldwide. And those who shake their heads as they walk past (I’ve seen them) or make jokes about the sign with the giant cannabis leaf out front (I’ve heard them) are missing out on a wealth of information.

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Far from only being of interest to stoners of hippies (see reference to jokes above), the museum covers all uses of this versatile plant, out of which over 50,000 products can be won.

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The hemp story starts with historical background information about the growth, cultivation, harvest and processing of hemp. Cash cropping of hemp has been prohibited in Germany since 1981, but in a showcase you can see a few individual hemp plants growing.

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The exhibition then moves on to the different uses of hemp, including seeds and food, oil and fuel, paper and textiles, insulation material and medicinal purposes. The displays show examples of the wide ranging variety of hemp products, such as rope and nets, cloth and clothes, yarn and knitwear, paper and books, paints and pasta, cosmetics and washing powder, furniture oil and Bio Diesel. Paper for Prussian banknotes used to be hand made from a mixture of linen, cotton and mainly hemp. There’s even a hemp wig. The list is seemingly endless.

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Cannabis is claimed to be remedy for illnesses such as glaucoma, epilepsy, asthma, the side effects of cancer treatments, and as a pain relief. One case shows a selection of medication that could allegedly be replaced with hemp, including chemotherapeutic substances, tranquillisers, and antidepressants.

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Of course, there is also a look at the recreational consumption of hemp and tobacco in general, and the material culture associated with that – ranging from Viennese Meerschaum pipes and examples from the Biedermeier period, to hookah pipes and hashish production in Africa and Asia. Rastafarians and Reggae get a mention, as do Jazz and the Prohibition.

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The exhibition concludes with a look at the current legislation – which is not easy to untangle, especially as it differs so much around the world. A collection of Prohibition posters from the 1930s and posters from the ‘Legalise Movement’ of the 1960s symbolise the extremes as either end of the discussions around hemp and cannabis.

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I didn’t really know what to expect before visiting this museum – I like to keep an open mind about these things – but I came away feeling like I’d learned more than I ever knew I didn’t know. If you know what I mean. I also enjoyed a cup of hemp tea in the café before leaving, which, by the way, was very refreshing.

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The Hanf Museum is located at Mühlendamm 5 in Berlin Mitte, and open from Tuesdays to Sundays (closed on Mondays). A small admission fee applies, children under the age of 10 get free entry. Further details can be found on the museum website (http://www.hanfmuseum.de/#oeffnungszeiten). The website and museum are in German only. You mostly get the gist of the displays, but in light of the potential language barrier it may be most recommend for fans of unusual museums or those with a special interest in the subject.

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2 Responses to “{Germany} The fascinating world of hemp”

  1. Brian Says:

    I had no idea there was a whole museum dedicated to hemp and its uses! Looks like a really cool visit. Thanks for sharing your trip!

    Reply

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  1. Discovering Berlin: The Hemp Museum | My blog - October 20, 2014

    […] can find out more about it in my post over on Museum Diary […]

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