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Technology and Culture 41.3 (2000) 521-524
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Munich's Technology Collections
Eva A. Mayring
The Deutsches Museum gives an extraordinary encyclopedic overview of all spheres of technology in its historical development. There are, however, a variety of other collections and museums in Munich that concentrate on single technologies or industries.
One of the smaller museums in Munich, though still comprising seven hundred original instruments, is the Zähler-Museum. The exhibition covers the internal development of the electrical meter, beginning with Thomas Edison's first electrolytic meter (1881) and carrying on through to the modern electronic meters of the 1980s. The whole collection is unique. Highlights among the meters on display--stretched out like artistic ready-mades--are such rare items as the Georg Hummel's 1887 direct-current meter, the 1889 permanent-magnet motor meter with curved lever developed by Werner von Siemens, and Otto Titus Blàthy's alternating-current watt-hour meter of 1890.
In contrast to the Zähler-Museum's display of individual instruments, the collections of the Historisches Nähmaschinen-Museum trace the historical development of the garment-making industry. 1 Located on the premises of Johann Strobel & Söhne, which was founded in 1883 and started out with the construction of bicycles, the collections integrate the manufacture of safety bicycles and high-wheelers with garment-industry implements and drawings, patent specifications, and posters to illustrate industrial history. The collection comprises more than two hundred sewing machines, including a reconstruction of the first sewing machine, built by Balthasar Krems in 1800, as well as early machines by Singer (1853), Pfaff (1862), and John Kayser (the first zigzag machine, dating from 1882).
Other important collections reside at prominent museums whose main emphasis, however, is not explicitly the history of technology. Founded in 1855, the Bayerisches Nationalmuseum, one of the leading German museums of sculpture and decorative arts, is also well known for its prestigious [End Page 521] holdings of scientific instruments, clocks, and watches. Its collections contain clocks of high artistic value from the sixteenth to the eighteenth century, Prunk Uhren from residences in Munich and other Bavarian cities, as well as pocket watches. The core of this collection is the endowment of Ernst von Bassermann-Jordan, more than three hundred historical timepieces including sundials and astrolabes, as well as his library on the history of chronometry. Although scientific instruments occupy a minor place in the museum, it nevertheless still holds some outstanding artifacts. In 1877 it purchased the entire inventory of the Institute of Physics of the University of Würzburg. The most important items on display are the splendid armillary sphere (1569) by Christoph Schissler (fig. 1), George Adams's 1745 orrery, the mid-eighteenth-century physical cabinet with instruments of Abbé Jean-Antoine Nollet, and Johann Georg Neßtfell's planet machine (1755-61).
Just opposite the Bayerisches Nationalmuseum one can visit the Bayerisches Landesvermessungsamt and its collection of historic geodetic and surveying instruments. A newly opened exhibition traces the history of surveying from the eighteenth century, with some fine examples of alidades and theodolites, up to late-twentieth-century instruments and surveying [End Page 522] methods. Most outstanding is the collection of more than twenty-six thousand original lithographic stones; the collection is a historical monument, and tours are by appointment only. Different printing techniques (lithography, copper plate, and offset) are demonstrated at a historic printing workshop containing six presses.
Technological artifacts in a different perspective can be seen at the Neue Sammlung, one of the leading museums of twentieth-century applied art and industrial design. Its collections comprise more than fifty thousand artifacts, dating from 1900, and offer an in-depth view into the correlation of technological development and product design. The technological artifacts include the 1928 Pratt and Whitney "Wasp Junior," one of the first mass-produced flying motors; the streamlined body of the Tatra 87 (1937), designed by Hans Ledwinka; and the microcomputer-controlled television camera KCM 125, designed by Erich Slany and his team (1985). After a temporary closure the Neue Sammlung reopened its exhibition rooms at a...