Over the past 150 years enormous changes have transformed the working and living conditions of men and women. In its exhibitions the Museum der Arbeit tries to show what impact the process of industrialization and the extensive social, cultural and economic upheavals to which it gave rise have had on man, society and nature.
Although primary emphasis will be laid on activities typical of Hamburg, such as the fishing and printing industries, as well as work in the docks and in trading offices, housework will not be forgotten. Focussing on these areas of activity, the Museum demonstrates how people had to adapt to different working conditions, how machines demanded new skills and moulded human behaviour, replacing certain human activities and bringing relief in some areas while creating additional strain in others. The immense increase in goods production, and of consumer goods in particular, which is a direct consequence of technological progress, raises a number of questions concerning the quality, side effects and consequences of “technological progress”. It will therefore be our special concern to contribute a critical appraisal of what goes by the name of progress.
Yet man, not machines, furnishes the starting and focal point throughout our considerations. Consequently the Museum will also direct its attention to life beyond the place of work, focussing on the testimony of material vestiges and its historical relevance. In what ways do specific working conditions influence leisure time? How do people cope with the demands of their everyday lives? Finally, what did objects donated to the museum mean to their former owners? Even what is seemingly trivial may contain clues to hidden structures, may permit us to trace hierarchies and personal sanctuaries, dispositions such as pride or fear, as well as various ways of coping with everyday life.
Throughout these various areas of interest the Museum der Arbeit will keep a keen eye on the different situations of men vs. women, the “gender perspective”. This goes for the determining conditions of socialization, the social division of labour between the sexes and its appraisal, as well as ideas about the “nature of woman and man”, which have determined the assignment of social roles since the Enlightenment.
The Museum der Arbeit was inaugurated more than ten years ago, with the declared aim of becoming a living museum, one that addresses questions of history and faces new departures and developments of the present. After the opening of the permanent exhibition to the public, in 1997, the Museum continues to pursue this goal by offering a varied programme of changing exhibitions and events.
[This information ist copied fraom Museum of Labour and Technology, Hamburg, Germany]