{Germany} The Museum for Early Industrialisation

April 13, 2015


I’ve written about the Museum for Early Industrialisation (Museum für Frühindustrialisierung) before, but it’s been a while and I wasn’t able to post any photographs at the time. During our recent one month long stay in Wuppertal, I was able to revisit the museum, so while I’m still processing all my impressions from this past weekend’s Hive, I thought I would write an updated post about it.


As mentioned in my post about the Bandweberei Kafka, Wuppertal has a very industrial history, so it’s not surprising to find such a museum here. The museum was the first of its kind to cover this topic in Germany, and won a European award for its concept a year after it opened in 1983 in a disused ribbon factory.


Museum fuer Fruehindustrialisierung 04

The museum covers three floors. The ground floor begins with an exhibit in the foyer about energy, complete with working models of water wheels, steam engines, windmills and the like that spring to life at the push of a button. A touch screen also rewards you with an animation of one of the steam engines on display when you answer all the questions correctly. A display of clocks, bells and a time-punch machine then leads you into “Zeit, die neue Dimension” (time, the new dimension), which looks at how factories developed and things became more automated, people worked longer hours and had to do things faster, and air and water pollution increased. Happy times. There’s an AV playing some historical footage, and an overview showing the different steps from harvesting cotton in the fields, to brushing, spinning, bleaching, weaving, dying it etc.

Museum fuer Fruehindustrialisierung 11

The first floor starts with an exhibit about textile technologies and is crammed full of looms and other machines of which I only know the German names (Bandmühle, Zwirnmachine, Flechtmachine, Kartenschlagmachine, Klöppelmachine etc). Several of the machines that weave ribbons – for which Wuppertal was famous-  are in working order and loaded with reels of cotton thread. If you are lucky, the gallery assistant might put the machines into action – the noise is incredible! There are also various stencils and pattern books on display, which help to show the amazing technology behind the looms that weave ribbons with logos or lettering on them.

Museum fuer Fruehindustrialisierung 06

Museum fuer Fruehindustrialisierung 05

Museum fuer Fruehindustrialisierung 10


The other half of the first floor is divided into two sections: firstly “Lebenswelt – Arbeitswelt” (work/life, or rather life/work balance, in modern terms), with sub-topics such as daily life, immigration, economy, religion. I learned that out of 37,791 working people living in what is now Wuppertal in the early 19th century, 9,436 were employed in the textile industry, by far the largest in that area at almost twice the number of craftsmen, and 3,869 of those were silkweavers and 1,365 were dyers. Anyway, enough of the statistics. Exhibits included models of houses and factories, a variety of historical documents (such as contracts, account books, school reports, society yearbooks and extracts from marriage and birth registers), personal items (such as games, musical instruments, wine glasses, pocket watches and pipes), items related to work and trade (such as weights and measures), paintings of key historical figures, and a display about the church complete with pew, pulpit and organ pipes. The second section on that floor was about politics and infrastructure and covered Prussia (complete with Bismark helmet and Kaiser Wilhelm mug), French occupation, and the expansion of the road and railway network, among other things. Other exhibits included an old letterbox, a life-size stagecoach, and a replica train carriage where you could sit and watch an AV. One thing I particularly liked about the interpretation – the same thing is true of the ground floor too actually, was that the curated text on the exhibit intro panels was always accompanied by historical descriptions or first person accounts to exemplify what was being communicated.

Museum fuer Fruehindustrialisierung 12


Museum fuer Fruehindustrialisierung 03

Finally, the second floor looks at the life of children and child labour during the time period in question with the usual school benches and slates typical of such exhibits. It’s the most sobering part of the museum, to be honest. There is also has a space for special exhibits, though none were showing on my most recent visit.

Museum fuer Fruehindustrialisierung 08

Museum fuer Fruehindustrialisierung 07

The museum is open Tuesdays to Sundays, closed on Mondays. Adults pay 4 Euros (as of April 2015), with concessions available and kids age 6 and under go free. It’s a reasonable price for the amount you get to see. The only downside is that all the interpretation is only in German, but if you’re interested in the topic you might still enjoy looking around. ICOM members get free admission too, so if you happen to be a member, there’s no excuse not to check it out! Your admission ticket also gets you in to the Friedrich Engels Haus (of Marx & Engels fame) next door, but I’ll write a separate post about that ;)

, ,

2 Responses to “{Germany} The Museum for Early Industrialisation”

  1. Katie, museumsaskew Says:

    What does it say on the chalkboard? Granted, I’ve only been reading German for two years, but I can’t make heads or tails of it.



  1. {Germany} In the footsteps of Friedrich Engels | Museum Diary - April 20, 2015

    […] I wrote about the Museum for Early Industrialisation the other week, I promised you a separate post on the Friedrich Engels Haus. So, here it […]

Leave a Reply