DB Museum, Nuremberg
Polino, Marie-Noëlle, The Journal of Transport History
DB Museum, Nuremberg
Temporary exhibition: Planet Eisenbahn, die Geschichte der mobilen Zukunft [The railway, our planet: the story of our mobile future] 7 July 2010-27 February 2011 http://www.deutschebahn.com/site/dbmuseum/de/jubilaeum_202010/175_jahre_eisenbahn.html
The Deutsche Bahn Museum in Nuremberg has quite a long history, far longer than other transport and communications museums in Europe. It was originally opened in 1899, and presented a collection dating back to 1882. In 1925 the museum was installed in its present location in a building designed as a railway and post museum. It suffered considerable damage during the Second World War and was gradually opened during the course of the 1960s. But the springboard for its redevelopment came in 1985, with the celebration of the 150th anniversary of German railways, which began in Nuremberg, the terminus city for the first line opened to passengers' traffic in 1835.
The collections of post and telecommunications and railways are now dependent on two different museums and the Museum of Transportation became, in 1996, the museum of the new Deutsche Bahn (DB) company (founded in 1994). This dependence has enabled the museum, which benefits from a dynamic team of curators, to completely renew its exhibitions, but it is also subject to the vagaries of corporate governance. The decision in 2010 to celebrate the 175th anniversary of the railways with multiple events of all kinds held by public communities and cultural institutions provides a welcome opportunity to assert the museum's presence and to demonstrate to the new management team (installed in May 2009), the Museum's areas of expertises and its national significance.
The museum, however, covers the whole history of German railways, and as a history museum, it is principally educational. The story it tells is articulated by a specific timeline, which corresponds to a catalog in three volumes. The first, published in 2005, A century under the sign of steam. Railways in Germany from 1835 to 1919, encompasses the pioneer days, the development of the railway alongside that of heavy industry, and the break represented by the First World War. The next, In the service of democracy and dictatorship, the Reichsbahn 1920-1945 (2002) is devoted to the Weimar Republic and the rise of Nazism and the Second World War, leading to the deportation towards Auschwitz. The high point of this part of the exhibition is the group of exhibits and photographs showing the camp entrance at Auschwitz. The third, On parallel tracks, Reichsbahn and Bundesbahn, 1945-1989 (2001), deals with the development of the two railway corporations and mobility in the Federal Republic and German Democratic Republic and the subsequent reunification of networks and enterprises.
These stories are transmitted through text, quotes and annotated objects; the images feature prominently in the exhibition, as does the individual perception of history, which demands the empathy of the visitor. The transport history is told by the players, whether financiers or engineers and designers of the first railway lines, manufacturers producing locomotives or using the railways to increase their production, passengers, railroad workers: recorded testimonies are complemented by quotes from the nineteenth century. In order to understand the development of mass mobility that characterized the latter part of the nineteenth century and the pre-war period, archival photographs, dated and located, are accompanied by the appropriate ticket to the destination point, and of the class, which would have been chosen by a worker going to the factory, a peasant going to market, a student, a middle-class visitor, those going on a family vacation, or a travelling salesman. (With the avowed intention of making travel possible for the poor, the various German railways were alone in Europe in introducing a fourth class from 1857, in which people travel standing up in cars without windows. …