– a new standing exhibition at The Workers’ Museum from 2007
Introduction to the exhibition
The Industrial Worker and the Industrial Work are themes of a new standing exhibition at The Workers’ Museum.
On this webpages the themes and design of the exhibition are presented:
- Exhibition plan.(pdf-file) A room by room presentation of the exhibition’s themes and expressions.
- Presentation of the exhibition’s themes and perspectives.
- Design outline of two of the exhibition’s rooms: the Introductory Room (no. 3), ‘the Industrial Society’, and the Theme Room (no. 7), ‘Changes in the Industrial Work’.
- Media-clip – Windows Media og QuickTime – with a picture presentation of the industrial work from 1850 to 2005 and an animation of two of the exhibition’s rooms: the Introductory Room (no. 3), ‘the Industrial Society’, and the Theme Room (no. 7), ‘Changes in the Industrial Work’.
The Ideas behind the Exhibition
When new political winds blow, new technology is introduced, or the economic conditions of the industry is changed, the terms of the industrial worker are influenced to a great extent.
The industrialisation meant not only factories, machines, and innovation but as much a cultural turn in everyday life. In the beginning of the industrialisation, an actual industrial culture developed, with an enormous influence on the traditional gender roles and family patterns, on the relationship between urban and rural culture, and on the social division based on class and rank which existed at the time of the industrialisation’s breakthrough.
Accordingly the industrial work mirrors the general social development. The worker is influenced by the development but the development is also influenced by the worker. The standards of today’s labour market are very much the result of the worker’s long struggle for improved labour conditions.
The Perspective of the Exhibition
The history of Denmark over the last 150 years is often told on the basis of the political history while the focal point of the industrial history is usually the inventions of the engineer or the risk taking of the contractor. The exhibition takes another starting point: to recount the impact of the industrial and social development on the worker and conversely the worker’s impact on the industrial and social development.
For this reason, the exhibition will tell the history of the industrial work’s development from two perspectives:
History at eye level. The exhibition starts from the worker’s own factory floor experiences and through work life recollections the worker is given a voice in the exhibition. Themes such as new technology, industrial action and accidents will be illuminated from the worker’s perspective. Simultaneously, a series of realistic work situations build up the exhibition taking the audience into the factory building.
A means of comparison. The comparative perspective is a recurring feature of the exhibition. Work situations from a specific occupation is, for the sake of perspective, accompanied by a similar work situation from another time or place in the world. This is a way of showing to the audience how the technical development has changed e.g. the forging at the yards, the assembling at B&O, or how the sewing machinist’s work in Ikast in 1970 is carried out today on the same hosiery machine in Guatemala. In this manner, great and decisive features of the development are made comprehensible without the use of too much text.
The Industrial Society
The development towards today’s society of industry and welfare started at the beginning of the industrialisation, in the mid-1800s, and brought about the greatest change in our history since we began cultivating the land 6000 years ago. Factories, machines, and specialised wage labour are some of the phenomena central to the new social structure. The 1950s and 1960s saw the culmination of the classic industrial production and today we face new and significant changes: labour intensive industries such as yards and textile factories are moved to low-wage areas, the trade unions are challenged, and society increasingly responds to the new premises of the service industries and the knowledge society.
But despite these changes, the main principles are the same today as they were fifty years ago: machines, raw material, and labour must be supplied to the factories and society is organised to make that happen, as effectively as possible: legislation, bridges, railways, power plants, and day nurseries are some of the state’s contributions. Employers and engineers finance, rationalise, and reorganise production. But the industrial society has to an equal extent been influenced from the factory floor, by the workers: the high level of trade union organization, solidarity, strikes, and the broad-based compromises are significant stepping stones on the path to consensus – a defining feature of the Danish welfare state.
The Industrial Work
The industrial work is the exhibition’s focal point. The exhibition shows the work and the workplace of the industry and the audience will encounter the developmental features of the industrial work from the beginning to the present. More than any other group in society, the workers have all along been forced to renew their skills and habits, and change their mentality.
Through the work situations from the yard, the electronics factory, the brewery, the machine shop and the dressmaking business, the exhibition gives the visitor the opportunity to observe the changes of the industrial work in some of the essential industries.
The depiction of these workplaces simultaneously contains a theme illuminating the nature of the industrial work: on the sunny side; wages, leisure, and pension and on the shady side; wearing out, accidents, and redundancy.
The Industrial Worker
On the one hand, the workers are closely attached to each other by their common condition of not owning the means of production. They are wage earners. For this reason the workers share a common interest in securing their existence in terms of economy, health, and social conditions. The common interest comes to expression in a variety of ways, in terms of unity, trade unions, industrial actions, and support for workers involved in industrial action in Denmark as well as in other parts of the world.
On the other hand, the workers are internally divided across economic and social lines. In this regard, the differences between man/woman/child and skilled/unskilled are of particular significance. These contradictions have led to conflicts when occupational groups have tried to secure their existence, workplace, or status in relation to other groups.
In short, through a series of themes and concrete work situations the exhibition will show the industrial workers as a social group that have been constantly compelled to adapt to or react against the shifting conditions of their work and existence in the industrial society.
Introductory Room 3: The Industrial Society
Theme Room 7: Changes in the Industrial Work