The exhibition “Objects and Documents – Everyday Life in the Industrial Age” uses a collection of items to provide an introduction to the overall subject of the museum: the changes that occurred in working and living conditions during the Industrial Age. The central theme that links all of these very different objects is the world as it would have been experienced by a person moving from the countryside to the big city of Hamburg around 1900. This person would have been confronted with an industrial world and lifestyle that would have seemed very strange and unaccustomed, but which would, at the same time, have appeared full of promise and ripe with opportunity.
A stitched linen towel which was brought to the city from Mecklenburg speaks of a new beginning in the big city; a tin dinner pail documents the long distances between home and the place of work; a sputum bottle for tuberculosis sufferers hints at the spectre of urban diseases; a theatre ticket tells of leisure and pleasure; a strike card is testimony to organised opposition. A workers’ control watch, a set of regulations for the workplace and a blow-forging press indicate time restrictions and discipline. A telephone, camera and light bulb fitting stand for technical innovations that have changed our everyday lives in so many ways.
Many of these former innovations have become familiar to us and so natural that we fail to perceive just how much the process of industrialisation has shaped society over the past 150 years. By focusing our attention on objects from around 1900, and taking a look at what was new in life at the turn of the century, this exhibition gives us the opportunity to take a step back, to de-familiarize ourselves and see anew the challenges and opportunities of life in that era.