The history of the city
The imposing brick edifice was designed by architect Fritz Schumacher and opened in 1922. Today the building boasts the largest city history exhibition in Germany. Numerous exhibits and installations as well as architectural relics from the Middle Ages and Modern Era offer a historical journey from the birth of Hamburg around 800 up until the present. Here you will find everything worth knowing about Hammaburg, 14th and 15th century pirates, and Hamburg’s evolution into one of the largest and most important harbour cities in Northern Europe.
In the 20th Century Hamburg exhibition, we also inform you about the most recent past. You will encounter artifacts from historical events in your lifetime. The presentation on Jewish life in Hamburg from the end of the 16th- to the 20th century is also particularly worth seeing.
The collection was supplemented and its presentation concept innovated continuously over the past century. Topics like urban development, the harbour, everyday life and culture are presented comprehensively and illustrated by elaborate models, large installations and a wide range of historical objects as well as pictorial and text documents.
Since the first of January 2008 the Museum for Hamburg History and its off-site facility Kramer Widow’s Apartment (Kramer-Witwen-Wohnung) belong to the Stiftung Historische Museen Hamburg.
History of the museum
The Museum for Hamburg History was founded in 1908. In 1922, it moved to its present building, designed and built between 1914 and 1922 by the leading Hamburg architect and municipal planning director, Fritz Schumacher. The museum was erected on the site of the former Bastion Henricus, a section of the baroque fortifications which had been built between 1616 and 1625 by the Dutchman Jan van Valckenborgh to render the city impregnable.
When building the museum, the facades were decorated with preserved architectural fragments of Hamburg townhouses and with the statues of German emperors from Hamburg’s old town hall. Fragments of buildings destroyed in the Great Fire of 1842 or by development projects like the erection of Speicherstadt were also incorporated in the structures of the courtyard and exhibition halls. These fragments were the original holdings in the collection of the Hamburg History Association and formed the museum‘s founding stock.
The Hamburg History Association was founded in 1839 and built up the “Collection of Hamburg Antiquities” which, along with architectural fragments, also included arms, armour, flags, uniforms and guild artefacts. The aim of the association was to promote awareness of the city’s history among the people of Hamburg. The association’s collection was nationalised in 1849 and on show in the basement of the Academic Gymnasium provisionally until the museum was opened.
It was already decided in 1906 to build the Museum of Hamburg History, and its first director, Otto Lauffer, was appointed in 1908. He remained in office until 1946 and was followed by the directors Walter Hävernick (1946), Jörgen Bracker (1976), Gisela Jaacks (2001) und Lisa Kosok (2008).
Architectural elements and decorations
Since the Great Fire of 1842, elements from public and private buildings were saved from the rubble after events of this kind. More items were added in the course of the different demolition activities in the city centre. The collection therefore includes remnants of the main medieval churches, the oldest existing elements of timbered houses dating from 1524 and items from modern residential buildings.
Hamburg History Tour
The entire first floor of the museum is devoted to a tour of Hamburg‘s vibrant history from the city’s beginnings in the small 9th century settlement Hammaburg until today. The exhibition provides fascinating insights into the development of the city and its economy, harbour and trade.
Hamburg in the 20th Century
The exhibition presents the wide-ranging events and developments from the period of the Kaisers to the eve of our new millennium. Here, you will see how political change influenced the living environment and everyday lives of the people of Hamburg.
Jews in Hamburg
This exhibition shows the moving and eventful history of the city’s Jewish inhabitants over the last 400 years: the difficult beginnings around 1600, the arduous emancipation process they went through until they gained legal equality in the late 19th century, and the golden age during the Weimar Republic. It also tells us how Jewish people were persecuted under National Socialist rule and how today’s com- munity was re-established after 1945.
Fashion, Music, Art and Theatre
This exhibition area focuses on cultural life in Hamburg from the 17th century until today. Elegant garments and accessories of wealthy Hamburg citizens from the 18th and 19th centuries as well as the colourful fashion of the 20th illustrate the changing fashion trends and social Zeitgeist in Hamburg.
Decorated ceilings, wall panels and illusionist mural paintings – the collection presents original objects of historical home culture which were saved from destruction and installed in the museum. Rooms in classicist, Biedermeier and historicist interior design offer insight into the residential culture and artistic tastes of eminent Hamburg citizens.
The association Modelleisenbahn Hamburg e.V. (Mehev) operates a historical model railway in the scale 1:32 (Track 1). It is one of Europe’s largest and oldest model rail systems.