When the north was Danish
The Altonaer Museum, one of the largest regional museums in Germany, focuses on the art and cultural history of Northern Germany and presents the cultural and historical development of the Elbe region around Altona, Schleswig-Holstein and the coastal areas next to the North Sea and Baltic.
The permanent exhibition displays the most important regional exhibits in sections covering contains graphics, paintings, textiles, toys and cultural history artefacts from the fields of handicrafts, seafaring, living and working in both the countryside and town. The Altonaer Museum is now connecting its exhibitions and events more and more to topics from history which determined and impacted on the prospects of today’s inhabitants and on their identity within Hamburg.
With the opening of the KINDER-OLYMP, their own interactive children’s department, in the year 2006, the Altonaer Museum has also become a very popular destination for family days out.
Since the first of January 2008 the Altonaer Museum belongs to the Stiftung Historische Museen Hamburg.
History of the Museum
When the founders met on 11 October 1863 to launch the “Public Museum” on Altona’s grand Palmaille boulevard, it was a particularly unspectacular event. Some dedicated history enthusiasts had got together to open an exhibition in an inner courtyard building to display models and medals, coins and paintings, everyday objects and weapons from Altona’s eventful history.
Reorientation under the responsibility of Otto Lehmann
Only when, more than three decades later, Otto Lehmann was appointed as the first professional director of the museum did the museum become much more significant: this zoologist and geographer, who was a follower of the progressive education movement, developed a completely new concept for the museum in this large, and at that time, Prussian city, which he was able to implement in 1901 in the prestigious new building on today’s Platz der Republik. Instead of following the usual dry systematic approach, Lehmann was more concerned with vividness and clarity. His concept was to inform and teach broad sections of the population about the natural and cultural history of their homeland. This was truly revolutionary and trendsetting at the time, so much so that many European museums, particularly Scandinavian ones, oriented their ideas according to this too. After much destruction during the war and a terrible fire which destroyed valuable parts of the collection in May 1980, this traditional establishment has developed into a museum that, on the one hand, looks into the history and development of Altona, a district of Hamburg today, and on the other hand also deals with the cultural history of northern Germany.
Facets of Altona’s urban development
On 23 August 1664, Altona was chartered by Danish King Friedrich III. Until 1864, Altona was the second largest city in the Danish Kingdom. And until it was integrated in the city state of Hamburg in 1938, it was the largest city in the Prussian province of Schleswig-Holstein. In the 17th and 18th centuries Altona de- veloped from being a small fishing village to become a prosperous trading city.
The ground floor of the museum is dedicated to historical shipping in Altona. This department can be experienced by taking a round tour through several rooms and spaces and includes sections on shipping, ship-building, chandlery, fishing and fishing equipment, vehicle construction and maritime decorations.
Optical chamber of wonders
The current exhibition is based on the museum’s stock of 450 magic lantern pictures. It considers the question as to what stories can be told with this set of pictures. Magic lanterns work according to the same principle as the camera obscura, just the other way round.
The Altonaer Museum owns 17 northern German farmers’ parlours or Bauernstuben as they are known. They form a unique ensemble giving us an insight into rural living in the 18th and 19th century. Otto Lehmann, the first director of the Altonaer Museum, travelled around Schleswig-Holstein in about 1900 buying up as many completely original farmers’ parlours for the museum as he could.
Dioramas from the Jürgen Glanz collection
Around 65 dioramas are on display. These were very popular 3-dimensional material-pictures and souvenirs in the 19th century and are now an admirable addition to the museum’s collection of optical media. Playing with optical effects was a popular way of passing the time even before the age of photography.
Children’s Book House
The Children’s Book House in the Altonaer Museum is one of the few places in Germany where you can see original illustra- tions from books for children and teenagers. A series of changing exhibitions showcases the works of renowned illustrators in the Children’s Book House.
Kinderolymp – for children
The Kinderolymp in the Altonaer Museum is a place devoted to children. With the play-ship Altonia at its centre, children and their families will find a whole series of changing exhibitions here.
The Dufke shop
The “Dufke shop”, saved from demolition and rebuilt in the museum, will teach people in times to come about a disappearing form of “communicative shopping”. However, the museum deliberately did not try to reconstruct the shop and stock as it was when it was first built by Magdalene Dufkes’ grandfather Adolf Wülfken in 1890, but instead decided to recreate the situation of the shop in 1978.
Throughout the Altonaer Museum there are many ceramics to be found, because, from the 17th to the 20th century, there were so many potteries and faience producers manufacturing crockery, stoves, tiles and decorative objects in Northern Germany, the Baltic area and the Netherlands.
The Lauenburger Raths-Pharmacist’s shop
The Lauenburger Raths-Pharmacist’s shop was gifted to the museum by pharmacist Margarete Lammers in 1997. Founded directly on the river Elbe in 1736 by the Lauenburg Town Council, it was regularly frequented by sailors from the barges. The sales and work room are now on display, almost at full-scale.