Sunday, January 25, 2015

A Visit to the "Deutsches Bergbau Museum"

The Deutsches Bergbau Museum. Notice the huge structure above it - the headframe.
Today I went to another museum, this time in Bochum itself - the Deutsches Bergbau Museum (the German Mining Museum). We went down the "Visitor Mine," which simulates a real mine, but was built to show mining technology from various eras. Since it's a Sunday, there was no guided tour, and we just wandered around by ourselves, not understanding most of what we were seeing. (To be honest, I'm not sure that going on a guided tour would have added much to my knowledge - there were a couple of places where we listened to recorded explanations of what we were looking at, but they were often too technical for me to understand). It was a rather strange, claustrophobic experience. The museum's website has an explanation of the various machines in the mine, for the technically minded: the Visitor Mine. The visitor mine is about 20 meters down, while a real mine would be much deeper - they have installed a simulation of a pit cage that goes down 1200 meters, which we went on.

The history of the museum itself is interesting. It wasn't built on the site of an old mine, but of an old slaughterhouse. It was founded in 1930.
The appearance of the museum today is largely shaped by the new, prestigious museum building based on plans by the renowned industrial architect Fritz Schupp. The decision to build was made in 1935. To give visitors as realistic an impression as possible of working life underground, the construction of a visitor mine was planned right from the start. At the end of June 1937 a shaft was sunk so that the first gallery could be excavated. In 1940, 600 metres of galleries and cross-cuts had already been excavated in the visitor mine, around 17 metres under the ground, and most of this had been fitted with permanent supports. 
Before it was fully completed, the museum building was badly damaged by Allied air raids, and in 1943 the museum had to be closed because of the war. The few remaining members of staff moved valuable items from the collection to safe places, and converted the visitor mine into an air-raid shelter. This became the most heavily-used air-raid shelter in Bochum, with between 580 and 760 people per day seeking refuge here in 1945.
After the war, the building was cleaned up, and eventually greatly expanded. We mostly went to the underground mine and then wandered around the other exhibits. There's something we didn't see, which I think would be interesting - the "treasure chamber" of objects made of mined materials, as well as an exhibit about the cult of St. Barbara, who is apparently the patron saint of miners. Inside the Visitor Mine we saw a couple of small statues of her.

Some photos of old mining machinery.

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