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  • Writer's pictureLucy Walker

A Brief History of the German Museum of Technology

The German Museum of Technology, or Deutsches Technikmuseum in German, is a museum founded in 1982 that focuses on the ‘excitement of technology and the joy of experimentation’.

Deutsches Technikmuseum

Maurice Philippe, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

German Museum of Technology History

Germany is one of the world’s foremost industrial nations, and is renowned for its car manufacturing and electrical industries. The German tradition of technological innovation began in the mid-15th century when Johannes Gutenberg invented the printing press. The Deutsches Technikmuseum (or German Museum of Technology) charts this trajectory right up to the present day through its vast collection of industrial plant, which includes two windmills and a historical brewery.

In the first half of the 20th century, Berlin was home to numerous museums that showcased burgeoning German industries. There were museums of Oceanography, Radio, Aviation and Science, among others. Then came the devastating bombing campaigns of the Second World War and the subsequent partition of Berlin. Many of these collections were destroyed or displaced, and museum buildings reduced to rubble. The Museum für Verkehr und Technik (or the Museum of Transport and Technology), as it was known then, was founded in 1982 as the legacy of these earlier institutions; many of their surviving exhibits are on display in the museum or stored in its archives.

EmptyTerms, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The Deutsches Technikmuseum houses much of what was previously displayed in the Royal Museum of Transport and Construction, founded by the Prussian Crown in 1906. This museum occupied Hamburger Bahnhof, one of the oldest surviving train stations in Germany, which closed its doors to travellers in 1884. Remarkably, the Neoclassical structure survived the Allied air raids of the 1940s (although it did sustain severe damage), but after the war it fell into the hands of the East German government, who neglected the building for another four decades. Today, Hamburger Bahnhof is home to a contemporary art gallery.

Like its predecessor, the Technikmuseum has taken over a former railway site: the goods yard of the now-demolished Anhalter Bahnhof. A large part of the old station’s red-brick façade still stands nearby, along with a memorial to the Jews who were deported by train during the Holocaust. Sculptures from the station’s façade were recovered from the ruins after the war and are now on display here in the museum. The oldest part of the Technikmuseum is the main entrance on Trebbiner Strasse. This elegant red-brick building with its flat façade dates from the early 20th century and used to be an ice factory.

The museum is aptly situated in Kreuzberg, a neighbourhood that was once an industrial centre. Originally a quiet rural area on the edge of the city, it was rapidly industrialised in the mid-19th century and formally recognised as a Berlin suburb in 1920.

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