{Germany} The Cutting Edge of Museums. Literally.

April 27, 2015

Germany

Confession time: I get quite excited by museums about industrial history. I guess living for eight years in the heartland of one of the oldest industrial regions in Europe will do that to you. For several years now, the German Tool Museum (Deutsches Werkzeugmuseum) has been on my museum ‘hit list’, as it’s very near Wuppertal where my parents still live. The last couple of times we’ve been to visit them, I’ve really wanted to go to the Tool Museum, but something else always came up and somehow it never happened. During our recent visit there in March, I had the fullest intention of finally going to check it out, and said to my dad (it requires a car ride and he’s the driver) “Let’s schedule a trip to the Tool Museum!” To which he responded, “You mean the Blade Museum?” Say what?! A Blade Museum? There’s a separate Blade Museum too?!! Suddenly I was in that all too well known conundrum of too many museums, too little time. Which to chose? Tool or Blade? Which prompted this rather funny tweet from the guys at Überlin:

I was first leaning towards Tools, as I thought they’d probably also include blades, but then I read that the Blade Museum included a children’s gallery, and since it was going to be a family outing with the kids, the Blade Museum(Deutsches Klingenmuseum) won out in the end. So, we all piled in to my dad’s car and drove over to nearby Solingen which is famous for, you’ll never guess…exactly, manufacturing blades! In fact, Solingen has been famous as the ‘town of blades’ for hundreds of years, with blades for swords and rapiers to everyday knives and cutlery being exported to all corners of the world. Today, the importance of the industry has declined, but the Solingen still enjoys its good name and reputation. It makes perfect sense to have a museum here, and it’s not easily missed, thanks to the gigantic pair of scissors on its front lawn!

IMG_4519

IMG_4555

As to be expected, the museum covers the history of blades and cutting implements, from the time first blades were produced in the Bronze Age, right up to stylised designer cutlery of the 21st century, and the museum’s cutlery collection is apparently the biggest of its kind world wide. The exhibits in the museum are presented chronologically. On the ground floor, you’ll find, as mentioned, the Bronze Age, followed by the Iron and Middle Ages, Renaissance and Baroque, and the Third Years’ War. Throughout the displays, the different ways of using edged weapons, knives and cutlery are explained. There are also some exhibits focusing specifically on the local Solingen Blades, including a short film showing exactly how blades are made the traditional way and the many steps involved. #MuseumBoy watched it fascinated from beginning to end!

IMG_4535

IMG_4548

IMG_4551

On the first floor, the chronology continues with the Age of Enlightenment, the Industrial Era, and finally the 20th and 21st centuries. There’s also a small display on non-European weapons, cutlery and other blades. After seeing a LOT of swords and kitchen knives downstairs, and had commented to #MuseumHusband that I was hoping for at least a few scissors upstairs – the gigantic pair of scissors outside looked so promising, surely there must be some more. And then, “There’s your scissors!” he says. And there they were. Hundreds of them. All assembled in one fantastic peacock show piece. For that alone, the visit was worth it (and, incidentally, it also swiftly became my most popular tweet to date – perhaps I should visit and tweet about scissor-sculpture-peacocks more often!).

IMG_4593

IMG_4575

IMG_4601

Another display I really enjoyed, was the section on the Age of Enlightenment, where the objects were divided up in to themes including candle light (wick cutting!), embroidery and other hand crafts, tailoring tools, kitchen tools, illness (think blood letting etc.) and shaving. I just found it really fascinating to learn about the blades and tools associated with these areas of everyday life – for example, did you know there were special scissors used to trim candle wicks, with little boxes around the blades to catch the cut wick. Some of them were really ornate, and when they fell out of use, they continued to be given as gifts for display pieces.

IMG_4615

IMG_4621

Scanning the galleries at first glance, it may seem like there is a lot of repetition and ‘sameness’ in this museum – endless cases full of swords and knives, for example – but the fascination is in the nuances. How the blades evolved, their ornate decorations, the stories behind them. This really is a museum where you need to look closely to get the most out of it. And, of course, with such a cutting edge topic (sorry, couldn’t resist the pun), there’s not much scope for hands-on activities! Though there was one display, where you could lift different swords by the handle to feel how heavy they are. And there are some really unique pieces too, to discover, from the tiniest knives, to the world’s most expensive pair of nail clippers (see below).

IMG_4568

IMG_4534

IMG_4578

However, there was also the children’s gallery (Klingenmuseum für Kinder), in an adjacent building, which was the reason we’d chosen to go there in the first place, and there were plenty of hand-on activities to do there. None actually featured blades to handle, mind you! There were feely boxes, matching games, spinning wheels, audio recordings and other things. The children’s gallery is fairly small, but there is lots to do. #MuseumBoy had a great time and didn’t want to leave. I knew it was a good idea going to main part of the museum first, as we’d never have gotten to see it otherwise!

IMG_4624

I really wish though, that instead of bunching up all these activities together in one room in a separate building, they had integrated them in to the exhibits in the main part. How great would it be to have those audio stations of blades in action next to the actual blades in the collection. Or the feely boxes with things that can be cut, next to the display cases of the blades that cut them. Or the spinning wheels with meals from around the world, next to the relevant cutlery exhibits. It would be a perfect tool (no pun intended this time) for getting kids and families to engage more with the actual collections, and feel it’s a missed opportunity segregating it. But other than that, I really enjoyed out visit to the Blade Museum and am really glad we went. And, yet again, the Tool Museum has to wait until the next time :)

IMG_4524

The Deutsches Klingenmuseum Solingen is open Tuesdays to Sundays, closed on Mondays. Admission was 4.50 Euro for adults, with discounts and family ticket available, and free entry for ICOM members. You can find the up-to-date opening times and admission prices on the museum website, along with directions of how to get there.

,

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. {Kids in Museums} Klingenmuseum für Kinder | Museum Diary - April 28, 2015

    […] I posted a review of the Deutsches Klingenmuseum (German Blade Museum) in Solingen, a city famous for producing and exporting blades and cutlery all […]

Leave a Reply