On a September morning
Lufthansa flight LH 4435 lands at Munich-Riem airport at 10.10 am
precisely. The stream of passengers heads for tramway number 8.
'Unterföhring: would passengers please take the left doors,'
announces a woman's voice. It is seven stops to the Isar Gate and
a 45-minute ride from the airport to the city centre. That gives
just enough time to take a look through the museum guide. The Deutsches
Museum is described as being 'part of Munich, just like the Frauenkirche,
the Hofbräuhaus brewery and the Olympic village'.
11.15 am. 'Isar Gate: would
passengers please take the left door.' It is now just a few hundred
yards to the Deutsches Museum. 'Do you know where the main entrance
is?' asks Sieglinde Sander, who is from a Wiesbaden suburb, as she
crosses the Ludwigsbrücke. Good question! Because the
museum, situated on an island in the Isar, has 55000 square metres
of exhibition space. Frau Sander first visited the museum with her
husband 30 years ago, and is now returning with her 16-year-old
daughter Evelyn. What does she expect to find at Europe's biggest
science museum? 'I don't know,' she shrugs, 'I'll see.'
Aerospace, astronautics, power machinery, railways,
the historical Zeiss planetarium
there is certainly plenty
to see. Lars Madson, an electrical engineer, has come all the way
from Copenhagen for what is his fourth visit to the museum. His
sons Peter (14) and Sven (16) are with him. Every year 1.4 million
visitors from 100 countries visit the Deutsches Museum - more than
the total population of Munich.
'We want to welcome visitors with a totally new
approach,' states Wolf Peter Fehlhammer, the museum director. The
emphasis is on the 'pleasure' element, as its designer Oscar von
Miller intended back in 1903 with the idea of a 'touching museum'.
An engineer, he had already dazzled the public at the Crystal Palace
with a waterfall driven by a remote electrical device. In a Europe
gripped by the fever of industrial growth, Oscar - together with
the physicist Wilhelm Röntgen, the engine designer Rudolf Diesel
and the inventor of the refrigerator Carl von Linde - gave Germany
a museum with a diversity of exhibits and clarity of explanation
which successfully conveyed the way science and technology impact
Some 100 years later, the old museum - home to
such historical exhibits as the very first Benz automobile (1886)
and first diesel engine - is adopting some new educational approaches.
The chemistry of life
The Pharmaceutics permanent exhibition
inaugurated in 2000 is one example of the way this Munich museum
is innovating. It invites visitors to take an inside look at the
microcosm of a human body cell. 'This is great,' exclaims Seftab
Inan (23), an assistant pharmacist, as she enters the dark tunnel
leading to the cell interior. The cell is magnified 350 000 times
to form an area measuring 11 metres by six where visitors can closely
observe the cell structure and mechanisms. A cell forest shows the
different cell types and the molecular changes triggered by illnesses
such as Aids, tuberculosis and cancer. Under the motto You Are
Chemistry, the exhibition also offers interactive multimedia
systems to enable visitors to learn about the biochemical processes
of the human body. 'Our aim is to focus on the human body,' stresses
Wolf Peter Fehlhammer, a former lecturer in chemistry at Berlin
A different kind of class
Children - tomorrow's researchers - are more than
welcome to the Deutsches Museum. Every year it welcomes 60 000 visitors
aged under six! From 2002, they will have a specially designed Children's
'I see the museum as a generator of new ideas.
I want visitors to leave with strong and memorable impressions which
will remain with them for a long time,' explains Annette Noschka-Roos,
an education expert at the Deutsches Museum. The natural curiosity
and creativity of the child require a special approach. 'It would
be disastrous to try and make the museum conform to some narrow
model,' she continues. 'The museum must also appeal to the visitor's
senses and emotions. Such as when the visitor discovers the impressive
mining exhibit, or the "high tension" section where, safe
inside a Faraday cage, the person can be bombarded with lightning
without being struck.'
Theoretical learning does not dominate a visit
to the Deutsches Museum. Things move, spark and splutter. Children
can touch and make things, and even spend a night at the museum
- a really exciting adventure for the under-12s. As a living space
and after-school leisure facility, it should be able to attract
growing numbers of visitors. Last year, for example, it presented
an exhibition in co-operation with the European Patents Office,
which experimented with physics through the theme of A Revolving
World. By using their legs to activate a crane, rather like
hamsters on a wheel, and themselves activating turnstiles to transform
muscular power into motor power, the children certainly put all
their energy into scientific discovery.
Such activities will be a permanent feature of
the new Children's Museum. Today, already budding researchers are
setting off with a four-page questionnaire for adventures such as
'a journey to the stars', 'around the sun' or 'a space trip'. The
centre of the Earth, distant universes, the sonorous world of music,
the mysteries of the atom, and the powers of the microscope are
all explained to the visitor. And when, on clear nights, its young
visitors climb the 84 metres of the East Tower or when they enter
the planetarium dome, they are transformed into real little astronomers.
Museum von Meisterwerken der Naturwissenschaft und Technik
Covering 55 000 square
an island in the Isar and with its own observatory where
children can play at astronomers, Munich's Deutsches
Museum is a European site where
science and technology can be discovered through new
and different approaches designed for different publics.
women guide women
Sylvia Hladky, engineer and
former curator of the Deutsches Museum, who initiated
weekly guided tours of the museum by women for
Women have often been the instigators
of scientific discovery. Yet the vast majority of Nobel
prize-winners have been men. 'Without the work of Lise
Meitner, Otto Hahn would not have been able to explain
the structure of the atom.' This is why Sylvia Hladky
is committed to doing justice to the importance of women
scientists throughout history. As the Deutsches Museum's
first curator, she convinced her male colleagues to
set up a bust of this famous Austrian in the museum's
hall of honour. With the launch of the programme entitled
Women Guiding Women 10 years ago, she gave the
museum a special attraction. 'Women are not enemies
of science and technology. Their approach is simply
more pragmatic than that of men.' It is on the basis
of this specific difference that Sylvia Hladky developed
the educational aspect of her project. From October
to May, Wednesday morning is women's morning at the
Deutsches Museum with professional women guides showing
women visitors around the exhibits for an hour and a
half. Programme themes include Bits et Bytes (from the
calculator to the computer), cooking and solar energy,
the history of construction games and the creation of
Science on show: at the Pharmaceutics
exhibition, visitors get an inside view of a giant
cell to understand how it works.
The several thousand items exhibited
at the Deutsches Museum represent an inexhaustible source
of knowledge. 360 schools are permanent members of the
institution. This means that classes can be held in
at any time. The physics teacher takes his classes there
to explain quantum physics while the biology teacher
takes his older pupils literally to the heart of the
human cell with a visit to the 350 000 times magnified
model at the Pharmaceutics exhibition.
questions for Wolf Peter Fehlhammer
Director of the Munich Deutsches Museum
Wolf Peter Fehlhammer
General Director of the Munich Deutsches Museum
used to have the reputation of being rather sterile
places of 'conservation'. What do you do to make a museum
a more lively place?
We are trying
to introduce an emotional component. We want to reach
the public through the senses too. We do this through
various means, such as the science theatre and the art
exhibitions. I do not believe too many demands should
be made on visitors. This is why our current exhibitions
do not try to show everything but to make a very rigorous
selection of what will be shown. The phenomena are explained
by carefully selected examples and rest areas are provided.
The guided tours, which follow a narrative, are also
very popular. Stories are also a way of reaching people.
But our concept
is a very open one. Above all else we want to target
new groups of visitors, such as women.
Do you feel
that women are neglected?
museum attracts predominantly male visitors. One sees
many more fathers and grandfathers with their grandchildren
than mothers with their daughters.
One of our
aims is to make the museum rather more feminine. At
the moment there is something of a male bastion about
it. We are trying to lighten and soften the environment.
One way is by hiring more women staff - until a few
years ago the surveillance staff was exclusively male
- or by allowing retired women to work as volunteer
guides. And more women are also now holding the post
of curator at the Deutsches Museum.
is the Deutsches Museum doing to attract children in
We have simplified
procedures and reduced the cost of admission for children.
Schools can obtain a special reduced rate membership
card. As a result, there are now 360 schools which are
permanent members. Teachers can use the museum's facilities
whenever they want, bring their class here and teach.
We want to turn the visitors into users. The wealth
and diversity of our collections means that there is
something new to grab your interest on each visit, rather
like at a library where you are free to read one book
and then another, at leisure.
For the very youngest, for example, every weekend in
December we are organising a programme of fairy tales,
which stage the stories in the various museum rooms.
This initiative has proved very successful among children
and parents. At the moment we organise this kind of
special event on an occasional basis, but from 2003
the Deutsches Museum will have its own Children's Museum.
Young people will then be able to visit us whenever
they want, and explore the various sections in the company
of trained and attentive staff as they complete a special
'researcher's questionnaire' specially drawn up for
them. We already have experience of this kind of action
with children, who are certainly our favourite visitors.
We never cease to be amazed by their enthusiasm and
infinite patience, such as during holiday courses when
they spend two or three days building a plane which
can really fly.