An orange-glowing staircase and 6,000 exhibits in a spectacular industrial setting: The Ruhr Museum's permanent exhibition at the Zollverein UNESCO World Heritage Site shows the fascinating natural and cultural history of one of the world's largest industrial regions.
The Regional Museum of the Ruhr Area shows in its permanent exhibition the entire natural and cultural history of the region from the formation of coal over 300 million years ago to today's structural change to the Ruhr metropolis. Visitors follow the former path of the coal and descend deeper and deeper from the present into the history of the Ruhr region. Over three levels, they pass through windowless bunkers, huge industrial machines, raw concrete walls and conveyor belts. In between, 6,000 exhibits show in often fascinating detail how a formerly agricultural region developed into Europe's largest coal and steel production area and then became the Metropole Ruhr.
Unusually different: After the orange-glowing staircase, the tour begins on the 17 metre level in the present of the Metropole Ruhr. The "now" is presented on a large machine stage for sorting rock and coal, which becomes a panorama of the present. It shows with pictures the "Land of 1,000 Fires" and other myths, as well as the phenomena of industrialization visible today with soccer, drinking halls or the A40 as backlit photographs. An interactive media table offers facts and figures, the structures of the region, whose present reality is rooted in its history. For without the 277 mines dating back to 1860, there would certainly be fewer extraordinary venues and less green in the form of industrial nature today.
On the one hand, the "time signs" in the meter-high columns connect an object with a personal memory of the population. In this variation of the "musée sentimental," a Schimanski jacket can be found next to a jar of water, both of which stand for a vivid past and a new perspective. Just as many contemporary witnesses from the earth's history complement the "time signs," such as horsetails, sharks' teeth, or a stone dust lung, which have left their traces in the area over millions of years. In this way, two layers of time are connected: cultural and natural, short and eternal.
Unexpectedly diverse: The windowless bunkers of the 12 metre level are the repositories of the pre-industrial memory of the Ruhr region. In the past, "mountains," water and coal were stored in these chambers of wonder and treasure. From mammoth skeletons to Roman glass, precious goblets and writings to wooden statues, the exhibition presents a number of their most valuable legacies, which come from important museums and lenders from the entire Ruhr region. In addition, with natural history, archaeological and ethnological exhibits, the rooms showcase three of the Ruhr Museum's oldest collections, representing over 110 years of collecting history.
200 years on 100 meters: The Ruhr Museum tells the enormous upheaval process of industrialization on the 6 metre level on a long, impressive spatial axis as a drama in five acts. A geological prologue about the formation of coal 300 million years ago is followed by the dramatic process of industrialization with its beginnings through the Prussian reforms and the industrial pioneers in the 18th century. This is followed by the breakthroughs with steam engines and new transport routes, high industrialization with large corporations, migration and labor disputes, followed by the destruction in the two world wars and the subsequent reconstruction up to structural change with its crises and new paths. The epilogue takes stock and attempts an outlook at the end of the age of fossil energy consumption. And so the exhibition ends where it began: in the present.